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Understand a Home’s Water Quality Before Purchasing

By Scott Home inspection

Michigan Water Testing - Michigan Home inspector
(Photo by Getty Images)

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Water quality and the importance of water testing has been somewhat of an overlooked issue until hearing of the more recent news events such as the Flint Water Crisis. Since then, there has been a heightened awareness of water quality issues. Scott Home Inspection has responded with our Water Quality Testing service to help homeowners and home buyers understand what exactly is in their tap water.

This brings up some interesting questions about water quality, two of which are:

  • Why does water quality matter to me?

  • Why should I get a water test before purchasing a home?

We attempt to answer these questions to the best of our ability below.

Why does water quality matter to me?

To be fair, some of you may find this question obvious, but maybe not to all. Let’s start with a statistic:

When it comes to water, only about half of Americans are very confident in the safety of what’s flowing from their tap, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll, which found that trust is even weaker among minorities and people with lower incomes. –Ed White and Emily Swanson | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Roughly half of all Americans don’t fully trust drinking their tap water. This is because of many contaminants that have been found in the public water system. This ranges from lead to chlorine to pH imbalances, or nitrates in some areas. Some of these contaminants are harmful and some are not. Some are safe but can cause the water to taste differently. The most important thing is to be aware of what you are drinking and be able to make educated decisions as to whether or not to take action.

The most asked about and most dangerous substance that is found in local tap water is lead. This is one of the contaminants that we test for. Lead can cause adverse side effects in humans as it is a toxin to the brain. Young children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning, which can cause learning disabilities and life-long brain functionality issues. Because of this, it makes sense that mitigation of lead in water is a high priority.

How does lead get into our water?

Unfortunately, lead poisoning was not always a known issue. In fact, lead was a very common material for water supply piping for a very long time in the U.S. Much of it still exists today. Also, many older houses may have active lead supply pipes within the home, and, as water flows through these pipes, it is possible that the interior of the piping will corrode and contaminate the passing stream causing an increased lead level, higher than what the EPA says is safe. This degrades your water quality.

Michigan Water Inspection

Because of the pathway water takes from the treatment facility to your home, it is important to test it at the tap and not rely solely on the public water reports.

Because of this network of pipes, public water leaving the treatment plant may have different levels of contaminants than what ends up coming out of the tap. This is why it is very important to perform a water quality test on a house-by-house basis.

Although lead is currently in the hot seat in the news and the public eye, there are other water quality issues as well. For example, the amount of chlorine found in tap water is very important. Chlorine is a product used to kill bacteria found in water supply systems before it is sent to your home. Some chlorine should be found in your water to ensure that no bacteria is living in it, but you don’t want too much either. Because of this, testing for proper chlorine level is very important.

During our Water Quality Test, we test for lead, chlorine, and more. See the full list here.

Why Should I Get A Water Test Before Purchasing A Home?

Before moving into a new home is the best time to perform a water quality test. During your purchase process, you are likely already performing a home inspection and possibly other tests as well. Having a water test done during this time is ideal since you are already in the learning and mitigating process.

Moving to a new area likely means you also will have a new public water supply as well. There is a lot of information on each public water distributor. However, testing the water right at the tap is fast and easy, and it gives you a clear picture of that home’s water quality. Occasionally, during a home inspection, we can’t always see items, like lead supply pipes, that may affect the quality of the home’s tap water. This would likely be uncovered with a water test.

Another good reason for performing a water test as part of the inspection is to allow for any mitigation costs into your negotiations. If elevated levels of a contaminant are found in your water supply, something will likely need to be done. Luckily, most water issues can be mitigated in some form or another, but many of these systems require installation or specialized equipment. Occasionally, you can negotiate these costs into your contract since it can be a health-related item. Inquire with your real estate professional for a better understanding of this process, and how these issues are typically addressed.

If you have further questions on water quality or would like more information about our specific Water Quality Test, feel free to send us an email.

This add-on inspection is available with Thumb Home Inspection.

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