Water Testing Parameters

What We Look For

Standard government testing for Total Coliform and E.Coli does not provide enough information needed to assess well water quality. Brownlee Water Quality can provide a comprehensive well water analysis that uses the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards as a guideline. This will ensure that your well is protected from other contaminants or inform you if surface water is entering the well. A complete well water analysis is very important because many contaminants can not be identified visually or by odour. It is often difficult for private well owners to determine their complete water quality picture.


Parameters examined in our water quality assessments:



(Inorganic) Alkalinity is a measure of the resistance of the water to the effects of acids added to water. The recommended operational range for alkalinity in coagulant-treated drinking water is 30 to 500 mg/L expressed as calcium carbonate. Alkalinity over 30 mg/L assists floc formation during the coagulation process. In some circumstances chemicals must be added to boost alkalinity before addition of a coagulant. Water with low alkalinity may tend to accelerate natural corrosion leading to...


(NH3(N)) There is no guideline for this contaminant however, if ammonia levels exceed 0.1 mg/L as nitrogen, the possibility and type of contamination should be investigated. Ammonia is sometimes corrosive to copper and its alloys and, as a result, may corrode pipes.


(Inorganic) Chloride is a common non-toxic material present in small amounts in drinking water and produces a detectable salty taste at the aesthetic objective level of 250 mg/L. Chloride is widely distributed in nature, generally as the sodium (NaCl), potassium (KCl) and calcium (CaCl2) salts.


(Physical) The aesthetic objective for colour in drinking water is 5 TCU (True Colour Units). Water can have a faint yellow/brown colour which is often caused by organic materials created by the decay of vegetation. Sometimes colour may be contributed to by iron and manganese compounds produced by processes occurring in natural sediments or in aquifers. The presence of organic materials is the main cause of disinfection by-products when water is treated with chlorine.

Dissolved Organic Carbon

(Organic) The aesthetic objective for dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in drinking water is 5 mg/L. High DOC is an indicator of possible water quality deterioration during storage and distribution due to the carbon being a growth nutrient for biofilm dwelling bacteria. High DOC is also an indicator of potential chlorination by-product problems. Coagulant treatment or high pressure membrane treatment can be used to reduce DOC.

Escherichia coli

(Microbiological) Escherichia coli should not be detected/present in any drinking water sample. Escherichia coli is a fecal coliform and can be detected using methods such as membrane filtration, presence/absence and MPN. Since Escherichia coli is present in fecal matter and prevalent in sewage, but is rapidly destroyed by chlorine, it is a strong indicator of recent fecal pollution. Contamination with sewage as shown by positive E-coli tests would strongly suggest presence of pathogenic...

Faecal coliforms

Faecal coliforms should not be detected in any treated drinking water sample. The faecal coliform group is a portion of the coliform group that is capable of fermenting lactose at 44 to 45 0C within 48 hours. Escherichia coli is the fecal coliform most frequently associated with recent fecal pollution. The presence of fecal coliforms in drinking water is an indication of sewage


(Inorganic) Where fluoride is added to drinking water, it is recommended that the concentration be adjusted to 0.5 - 0.8 mg/L, the optimum level for control of tooth decay. Where supplies contain naturally occurring fluoride at levels higher than 1.5 mg/L mg/L but less than 2.4 mg/L the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care recommends an approach through local boards of health to raise public and professional awareness to control excessive exposure to fluoride from other sources. Levels above...


(Inorganic) The operational guideline for hardness in drinking water is set at between 80 and 100 mg/L as calcium carbonate. This value is set to aid in water source selection where a choice exists. Hardness is caused by dissolved calcium and magnesium, and is expressed as the equivalent quantity of calcium carbonate. On heating, hard water has a tendency to form scale deposits and can form excessive scum with regular soaps. However, certain detergents are largely unaffected by hardness....


(Inorganic) Iron may be present in ground water as a result of mineral deposits and chemically reducing underground conditions. It may also be present in surface waters as a result of anaerobic decay in sediments and complex formation. The aesthetic objective for iron, set by appearance effects, in drinking water is 0.3 mg/L. Excessive levels of iron in drinking water supplies may impart a brownish color to laundered goods, plumbing fixtures and the water itself; it may produce a bitter,...


(Inorganic) The maximum acceptable concentration for lead in drinking water is 0.01 mg/L. This applies to water at the point of consumption since lead is only present as a result of corrosion of lead solder, lead containing brass fittings or lead pipes which are found close to or in domestic plumbing and the service connection to buildings. Lead ingestion should be avoided particularly by pregnant women and young children, who are most susceptible. It is recommended that only the cold water...


(Inorganic) The colour related aesthetic objective for manganese in drinking water is 0.05 mg/L. Like iron, manganese is objectionable in water supplies because it stains laundry and fixtures black, and at excessive concentrations causes undesirable tastes in beverages. Manganese is present in some ground waters because of chemically reducing underground conditions coupled with presence of manganese mineral deposits. Manganese is also occasionally present, seasonally, in surface waters when...


(Inorganic) The maximum acceptable concentration of nitrates in drinking water is 10 mg/L as nitrogen. Nitrates are present in water (particularly ground water) as a result of decay of plant or animal material, the use of agricultural fertilizers, domestic sewage or treated wastewater contamination, or geological formations containing soluble nitrogen compounds. There is a risk that babies and small children may suffer blood related problems (methaemoglobinaemia) with excess nitrate intake....


(Inorganic) The maximum acceptable concentration of nitrite in drinking water, 1.0 mg/L as nitrogen, is based, as with nitrate, primarily on the relationship between nitrite in water and the incidence of infantile methaemoglobinaemia. Nitrite is fairly rapidly oxidized to nitrate and is therefore seldom present in surface waters in significant concentrations. Nitrite may occur in ground water, however if chlorination is practiced the nitrite will usually be oxidized to nitrate.


PH is a parameter that indicates the acidity of a water sample. The operational guideline recommended in drinking water is to maintain a pH between 6.5 and 8.5. The principal objective in controlling pH is to produce a water that is neither corrosive nor produces incrustation. At pH levels above 8.5, mineral incrustations and bitter tastes can occur. Corrosion is commonly associated with pH levels below 6.5 and elevated levels of certain undesirable chemical parameters may result from...


(Inorganic) The aesthetic objective for sodium in drinking water is 200 mg/L at which it can be detected by a salty taste. Sodium is not toxic. Consumption of sodium in excess of 10 grams per day by normal adults does not result in any apparent adverse health effects. In addition, the average intake of sodium from water is only a small fraction of that consumed in a normal diet. A maximum acceptable concentration for sodium in drinking water has, therefore, not been specified. Persons...


Using a domestic water softener increases the sodium level in drinking water and may contribute a significant percentage to the daily sodium intake for a consumer on a sodium restricted diet. It is recommended that a separate un-softened supply be retained for cooking and drinking purposes.


The aesthetic objective for sulfate in drinking water is 500 mg/L. At levels above this concentration, sulfate can have a laxative effect, however, regular users adapt to high levels of sulfate in drinking water and problems are usually only experienced by visitors and new consumers. The presence of sulfate in drinking water above 150 mg/L may result in noticeable taste. The taste threshold concentration, however, depends on the associated metals present in the water. High levels of sulfate...


(Inorganic) The odour related aesthetic objective for sulfide in drinking water is 0.05 mg/L as H2S(hydrogen sulphide). Although ingestion of large quantities of hydrogen sulfide gas can produce toxic effects on humans, it is unlikely that an individual would consume a harmful dose in drinking water because of the associated unpleasant taste and odour. Sulfide is also undesirable in water supplies because, in association with iron, it produces black stains on laundered items and black deposits...


Taste and odour are interrelated and consumers frequently mistake odours for tastes. In general, taste is most useful in detecting the ionic inorganic constituents of drinking water, whereas smell is most useful in detecting volatile organic constituents. Taste and odour problems constitute the largest category of consumer complaints. Changes in the taste of drinking water may indicate possible contamination of the raw water supply, treatment inadequacies, excessive biological activity due to...

Total Coliform

(Microbiological) The coliform group of bacteria has been the most commonly used indicator of water quality. The coliform group consists of all aerobic and facultatively anaerobic, gram-negative, oxidase-negative, non-spore forming, rod-shaped bacteria that ferment lactose in a broth medium with gas formation within 48 hours at 350C. Most coliforms also produce the enzyme $-D galactosidase which can be detected with a colour forming reagent. The group generally comprises the genera...

Total Dissolved Solids

(Inorganic) The aesthetic objective for total dissolved solids in drinking water is 500 mg/L. The term "total dissolved solids" (TDS) refers mainly to the inorganic substances dissolved in water. The principal constituents of TDS are chloride, sulphates, calcium, magnesium and bicarbonates. The effects of TDS on drinking water quality depend on the levels of the individual components. Excessive hardness, taste, mineral deposition or corrosion are common properties of highly mineralized water....


(Physical) Control of turbidity in drinking-water systems is important for both health and aesthetic reasons. The substances and particles that cause turbidity can be responsible for significant interference with disinfection, can be a source of disease-causing organisms and can shield pathogenic organisms from the disinfection process. Turbidity is an important indicator of treatment efficiency and the efficiency of filters in particular. A significant relationship has been demonstrated...

Comprehensive Lab Report

Brownlee Water Quality not only provides comprehensive reporting about your water, we help interpret the results and outline any follow-up actions.

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