Testing Drinking Water

Prepared by Terasa Lott, Extension Associate Agent, Clemson University. Reviewed by Douglas B. Kinard, P.E. (Director, Drinking Water Protection Division, Bureau of Water, SC DHEC) 07/15.

HGIC 3870

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Water testing and treatment are expensive and inconvenient, but are necessary to ensure residents have access to a safe and reliable source of water. The cost associated with testing and treatment of public water supplies is passed along to consumers through their water bills. Individuals relying on private wells do not have this benefit and must seek testing on their own.

Current South Carolina state regulation requires that the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) be notified of any new private drinking wells before installation. Part of the permitting process includes water quality testing. Residents with established wells can also submit samples for testing to DHEC’s Private Well Program and Environmental Quality Control (EQC) Laboratories.

Residents with a public water supply cannot send samples to DHEC for testing. Public water supplies perform testing on a regular basis as required by Federal and State standards. They are required to produce an annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) that contains information about the quality of the water delivered and the risks, if any, from exposure to contaminants detected in the drinking water. If you receive water from a public water supply, contact local management for water quality information. You may also contact DHEC’s Drinking Water Protection Division at 803-898-4300 if you are not provided with the information you need. If you are not satisfied with the response or have reason to believe there is a problem with the water supply, you may have a water sample tested by a commercial laboratory. Commercial laboratories charge a fee for this service. A listing of certified commercial laboratories is included at the end of this publication.

Testing of Private Drinking Water Wells

DHEC’s Private Well Program and Environmental Quality Control (EQC) Laboratories perform residential well testing for a variety of parameters for a fee. Information about types of tests and fees can be found at: http://www.scdhec.gov/Environment/WaterQuality/ResidentialWells/WellWaterTesting/

Bacteriological analysis is the most requested test as this is the primary indicator of water safety. A sample is first tested for the presence of total coliform bacteria, which are common in the environment and generally not harmful. If coliform bacteria are detected, the sample is then tested for a specific species of coliform bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli), which can cause illness.

Water Testing Instructions for Bacteriological Analysis

  1. Pick up a water sample kit from any DHEC County Office. There are four regional EQC offices but additional offices are located in each region. Contact your local EQC office for additional location information.
  2. Remove any strainers or aerators from the faucet. Rub the outside of the faucet with rubbing alcohol or bleach. Allow the water to run for four to five minutes.
  3. Without changing the flow from the faucet, remove the cap from the sample bottle and fill the bottle to about one inch from the top. Don’t touch the inside of the bottle or cap, or let the water splash from your hands into the bottle. Replace the cap.
  4. Fill out all of the information on the sample form that applies to you. You must complete your name, mailing address, daytime telephone number, and the date and time the sample was collected.
  5. Take the sample to your county health department or EQC office immediately. Samples must be received by the laboratory within 30 hours of collection. DHEC accepts samples on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM.

You will receive the results in the mail about 10-15 days with an explanation of the results and an invoice for $20. If E. coli is detected, disinfection can clear the problem. More information about residential well disinfection can be found at: http://www.scdhec.gov/library/CR-003247.pdf

Water Testing Instructions for Chemical Analysis

If you are experiencing problems such as: taste or smell of your water, staining of laundry, or plumbing fixtures, or are considering installing a water treatment system, you might want to have a minerals and metals analysis, which is the other common analysis conducted for residential well water. The parameters tested include: Chloride, Nitrate/Nitrite, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Lead, Zinc, Alkalinity, and pH. A DHEC provided container should be used for collecting your sample. These can be obtained from your local health department.  Once your sample has been collected, take it to your local DHEC office and complete Form 1905. You will receive your results in about six to eight weeks along with an invoice for $50 and a booklet explaining the results.

Additional Resources

  • SC DHEC Drinking Water Permits, Compliance, Monitoring http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/WaterQuality/DrinkingWater/
  • EPA Water: Consumer Information -  http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/index.cfm
  • CDC Drinking Water  - http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/
Commercial Laboratories for Total Coliform/E. Coli (as of April 2015)
Lab Name/AddressDirector Name/Phone Number
Access Analytical Inc. Hampton
303 First St. W
Hampton SC  29934
Douglas James
803-914-0006
Access Analytical Inc. Irmo
7478 Carlisle St
Irmo SC 29063
Amick, Ashley B
803-454-8983
Access Analytical Inc Lexington
200 Rich Lex Dr
Lexington SC 29072-9274
Boyd, Bryant
803-939-4983
Aquatic Analytics LLC
1180 Drop Off Dr Ste 101
Summerville SC 29483-7233
Miller, Samantha
843-471-1933
Blackman Laboratory Inc Hartsville
953 N Rolling Rd
Hartsville SC 29550-7765
Brand, Shelly
843-332-2973
Data Resources Greenville
2320 E North St Ste D
Greenville SC 29607
Watt, Bruce E
803-561-0331
Davis & Brown
PO Box 15038
Quinby SC 29506
Ward, William V
843-665-6746
Gel Laboratories Llc Greenville
111 Smith Hines Rd Ste J
Greenville SC 29607-5745
Bocklet, Carey J
864-676-2202
General Environmental Laboratories Inc
PO Box 21866
Hilton Head SC 29925
Patel, Sheila
843-208-2006
Goldie & Associates Inc
210 W North 2nd St
Seneca SC 29678-3235
Day, Ben S
864-882-8194
James H Carr & Associates Inc
PO Box 90209
Columbia SC 29290-0209
Carr, James H
803-776-7789
JG Environmental Inc
7776 Flat Rock Rd
Kershaw SC 29067
Gardner, Rick
803-475-6570
L&L Environmental Ware Shoals
PO Box 359
Ware Shoals SC 29692
Pulley, Brian J
864-456-2696
Pace Analytical Services Inc Greenwood
816 Durst Ave E
Greenwood SC 29649-2908
Grogan, Felicia
864-229-4413
Rogers & Callcott Columbia
PO Box 5655
Greenville SC 29606
Avery, Sam
866-805-9596
Rogers & Callcott Engineers Inc
PO Box 5655
Greenville SC 29606
Avery, Sam
866-805-9596
Shealy Environmental Services Inc
106 Vantage Point Dr
West Columbia SC 29172
Wright, Dan
803-791-9700
Southeastern Environmental LLC
4458 Augusta Rd Ste 2b
Lexington SC 29073-7570
Kates, Jack W
803-359-8378
Texidyne Inc
PO Box 1646
Clemson SC 29633
Goodman, Grant
864-639-6207
Trident Labs Services Inc
9104 Canvas Ln
Ladson SC 29456
Lewis, Melinda
843-871-4999

Sources of Significant Contribution:

  1. SC DHEC “Testing Your Drinking Water”
  2. SC DHEC “Water Testing Instructions”
  3. SC DHEC “Well Water Quality Testing Services”

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.