Residential Drinking Water

Residential Drinking Water / Well Water Testing

If you would like to have your drinking water tested for common contaminants such as lead, arsenic, and bacteria, just stop by our office at 124 Heritage Avenue in Portsmouth, NH to pick up a water testing kit and instructions.

Whether you have a private well or your water is supplied by a municipality, the quality of your water is extremely important.

Most contaminants have no taste, odor or color, so their presence can only be determined by laboratory testing of a water sample. Since some contaminants found in drinking water have been linked to cancer and other health issues, it is important to know what is in your water.

Public water suppliers are required to perform periodic potable water testing and distribute this information to the public. Although there is no requirement for private well water testing, most states recommend that you test your well water periodically for a list of common contaminants. Contact ARA or your local water department for the most recent well water testing guidelines in your area.

If you are within driving distance of Portsmouth, NH, stop by the Absolute Resource Associates office at 124 Heritage Ave (Portsmouth) any Monday through Friday between 9am and 5pm to pick up a testing kit and instructions.

Do I pay when I pick up the testing kit?

No, we request payment when you come back to drop your sample(s) off at our lab for analysis. Payment is required prior to the release of your report. We cannot accept cash payments at this time.

When can I bring my samples back?

We can accept drinking water samples any Monday through Thursday between 9am and 5pm. There are several analyses that cannot be accepted on Fridays.

You are open Monday through Friday, so why can’t I drop my samples off on a Friday?

We cannot accept samples for certain analyses on Fridays, due to the requirements of the analysis. Once your sample is collected, we have a specific window of time to start and complete the analysis. For example, the analysis for Bacteria must be started within 8 hours of being sampled and must read 24 hours later. Because our chemists are not typically available on weekends, we do not usually accept samples on Fridays.

Why does it matter if I keep my water on ice before I bring it to you?

To accurately report upon the tests you have ordered, the water sample must arrive at our lab with the same chemical composition that exists when you fill the container. Once water is collected in the bottles provided, chilling the sample ensures that the sample will not change chemically. Warming (or freezing) the sample can change the chemical composition and often renders the results invalid. This is a requirement of the EPA procedures we follow. Sample integrity helps ensure that your test results are accurate.

How long will it take to get my results back?

Standard turn-around time for a drinking water report is 10 business days. The best and most efficient way to get your results is to provide your email address when you deliver the samples. We will send your electronic report as soon as it becomes available.

What is a reporting limit (RL)?

A reporting limit (RL) is the smallest concentration (or amount) of analyte that can be reported by a laboratory with a reasonable degree of accuracy. A lab report will often use: < (less than) followed by a number, when the chemical is not detected in the testing process. The Reporting Limit (RL), Method Detection Limit (MDL) and Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) are EPA and industry recognized terms that have been established for clarity in lab reporting. Every instrument has a limitation for how low of a concentration it can detect, so we cannot say there is “0” present.   Simply put, “<RL” means that the amount of the chemical agent is below the sensitivity of the test.

What is the difference between Reporting Limit and Regulatory Limit?

See the previous question to get a better understanding of what the Reporting Limit is (briefly, smallest concentration (or amount) of analyte that can be detected by a laboratory).

Regulatory Limit, or Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), is a legally established maximum allowed amount of a contaminant in a sample. MCLs are set by the EPA and/or a state agency to protect human health. Since they are regulatory in nature, they require monitoring, remediation, and public notice when limits are exceeded.

If your lab results show a number that is above the Reporting Limit, but below the Regulatory Limit, that simply means that the analyte was detected, but it does not exceed the established legal limit set to protect human health.

What is Surrogate Recovery?

Near the bottom of a lab report page, you may see the term “Surrogate Recovery,” with results listed in percent (%). For some of the more complicated tests, the start of our analysis involves adding chemicals which are chemically similar to the chemicals which we are measuring. These “surrogates” behave just like the compounds of interest would in the sample preparation and analysis process. Since we know exactly how much we added, we can calculate the amount that made it through the entire process. Each test has specific acceptable ranges for surrogate recovery, this allows us to determine if the sample preparation and analysis processes went properly. Surrogate recoveries that fall outside the acceptance ranges may indicate a problem with the process or something about the sample which caused an interference. This process is just one part of our Quality Control system.

If I have contamination in my water, what should I do?

NHDES has set up a web portal for homeowners to help understand your drinking water lab results and treatment options. First, enter your lab results in the Be Well Informed page here: If a contaminant is above the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), you will be provided with suggestions for treatment based on your specific lab results.

Here are a few other websites to help as you research:

Just as Absolute Resource Associates specializes in analyzing water samples, water treatment companies are best able provide the options to correct a water problem, based on your specific lab test results.

  • Our Tests & Frequency page will explain your testing options, which analyses we perform, how often testing is recommended and what is involved with testing your well.
  • Our Submitting Your Samples page will give you step by step instructions for sample collection and submittal, to help you achieve the most accurate and timely results.
  • Our Interpreting Your Results page  will help you sort through your lab report.
  • The NHDES Be Well Informed Guide provides well owners with resources and information related to water quality testing, common contaminants, a handy “interpreting your results” tool, and water remediation options.

Notice to Vermont Customers:   Vermont regulations require that all drinking water results be reported to the Vermont Department of Health. To comply with this requirement, ARA must forward results identified as Vermont “drinking water” or “groundwater source” to the VTDH. The full text of the statute can be found here, and this link provides further info & contact information if you have any questions regarding this VT statute.