When Illinoisans have questions about their home water supply, the Water Survey’s Health and Environmental Applications Lab (HEAL) can provide answers. The Water Survey’s chemists customize each water analysis depending on where the water came from, how it will be used, and the symptoms of the problem.
Learn more about the team’s process and capabilities.
STEP 1: Request water testing
The process begins when someone decides to have their water tested--because of concerns about health (arsenic, lead), or nuisance issues (discoloration, hardness), or simply as a matter of routine maintenance.
To request a test, call the lab at 217-300-7420. A staff member will talk to you about any issues you are observing or concerns you have about your water. The staff member will use this information to determine what analyses are needed and how much your tailored test kit will cost--tests range from $25 to $80 and fees can be paid online or via cash or check. They also will walk you through the process of collecting a sample of your water.
STEP 2: Assemble and ship the test kit
Water Survey staff pack the required testing materials, including sample bottles, an ice pack, and instructions, into an insulated shipping box. Kits are typically shipped out within a day of the request.
A typical water testing kit provided by the Water Survey's Public Service Lab.
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STEP 3: Collect samples
Once you receive your test kit, the included instructions explain how to collect samples of your water. Most people will need to collect one to three samples, and most samples require you to fill multiple bottles, so it’s important to carefully label the samples.
You can ship your samples to the Water Survey’s lab using the same insulated shipping box in which you received the kit, in which case you will pay a return shipping fee, or you can drop the samples off at the lab in person.
STEP 4: Analyze the water samples
Each kit is different, but typical parameters analyzed by the Water Survey’s chemists include calcium, magnesium, iron, arsenic, manganese, sodium, hardness, total dissolved solids, alkalinity, color, turbidity, fluoride, chloride, nitrate, and sulfate. The lab also can test lead levels.
Analysis data from private wells are entered in the Water Survey’s groundwater database, helping to paint a more accurate picture of groundwater quality across the state.
STEP 5: Review water testing results
Once all analyses are complete, the lab’s staff will send you a report (via email or U.S. mail) and will flag points of interest. While the Water Survey’s chemists aren’t water treatment specialists, they can offer general recommendations such as:
- Your water is very hard. You may want to consider installing a water softener.
- Your water has a level of lead that is above the EPA recommended concentration. You should consider flushing your water before using it for cooking or drinking, or you may want to use bottled water.
- Your water has arsenic at a concentration that is above the EPA recommended limit. You may want to install a treatment that will reduce the arsenic in your water.
- Your water has a level of nitrate that is above the EPA recommended value. Nitrate can be an indication that surface water is entering the well. You may want to have your water tested for bacteria, which can also enter the well if surface water is getting in. Also, you may want to consider treating your well with chlorine. If you find you have a bacteria problem, you way want to contact a well specialist to see why surface water is entering the well and solve this problem.
You also can follow up with the lab if you have questions about the report. Depending on what the testing reveals, you may want to work with a professional water treatment specialist.
If you would like to have the Water Survey test your water, contact our chemists at 217-300-7420.