What type of test(s) do I need – bacteria or chemical?

The Virginia Department of Health recommends that well water be tested at least annually for bacteria (potability) and nitrate. If you are interested in a water test for your own peace of mind, then start with a bacteria test. If you notice an unusual odor or appearance to your water or are interested in discussing water treatment options, please call us (we do not install water treatment systems). We test for lead, nitrate, nitrite, and other chemicals. Email us with any questions.

What test(s) do I need for a real estate transfer?

A bacteria test is always required. Specific loan programs, such as a VA loan, may require additional chemical tests (lead, nitrate, and nitrite) as well as having a third party collect and deliver the sample (chain-of-custody). Although testing may be specified in your contract, we highly recommend that you confirm the requirements with your mortgage officer so there are no surprises at closing. Email us to request our list of companies that collect samples or for any questions.

What are other common reasons for water testing?
  • Annual Assurance of Water Potability and a Properly Functioning Well
  • Selling or Refinancing a Home
  • Known Problems With Other Wells In Area
  • Surrounding Land Disturbances, Animal Waste Disposal or Wetlands
  • Malfunctioning Septic System
  • Repairs to Well System or Replacement of Components
  • Changes In Water Odor, Taste or Color
  • Low Immune Function Individuals In Household
  • Pregnancy or Young Children in Household
  • Sudden or Unexplained Illness or Gastrointestinal Distress
What is the cost of each test?

A bacteria test costs $50. A lead test costs $50. Other chemical tests cost $25 each. Payment is due at the time of processing. Check, cash, or money order. No credit cards.

What are your testing capabilities? What elements do you test for?

Biotech Laboratory, LLC, is a Commonwealth of Virginia Certified Drinking Water Laboratory specializing in bacteria and chemical water quality analysis.

Bacteria testing performed at our lab detects the presence/absence of Total Coliform and E. coli bacteria. We can also test for lead, nitrate, nitrite, pH, alkalinity, copper, iron, manganese, sulfate, conductivity (total dissolved solids), hardness (calcium plus magnesium), and tannins (for organic matter).

Biotech Lab does not perform testing for oil, radioactive or heavy metals (other than lead), and pesticides. Those seeking analysis of these contaminants are referred to VELAP Certified Environmental labs (Virginia Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program).

Should I test for everything?

Water potentially can contain many things, some of which are common and others not so much. We prefer to talk with clients directly to understand their needs and identify their specific water quality issues.

Can I use my own container for the water sample?

The answer depends on the test.

  1. Bacteria test – You will need one of our sterile containers for a bacteria test. Sterile containers are available in our dropbox (24/7).
  2. Chemical tests – You will need one clean disposable water bottle (6 to 12 oz.) for chemical tests. One bottle is enough water for all the tests. You can use your own bottle. If you do not have a bottle handy, we maintain a supply of bottles in a cooler near our dropbox, also available 24/7.

Therefore, if you need a bacteria test and chemical tests, you need to submit two samples.

Can I mail a water sample?

Bacteria samples must be delivered to our drop box the same day as collection. Chemical samples may be mailed, at the client’s expense.

Does it matter which faucet I use to collect the water sample?

Unless required, we recommend you not use the kitchen faucet or a frost-free hydrant.  We get more false positives from kitchen faucets than any other location, due to contamination of the faucet itself.  We recommend either the bathtub faucet or outdoor hose bib. If you decide to use the kitchen faucet, you must remove the aerator and was the threads. Both are bacteria traps. For either the bathtub or kitchen faucets, place a sanitizer (at least 10% bleach or at least 70% rubbing alcohol) in a spray bottle and saturate both the inner and outer surfaces. Use a plumber’s torch or butane lighter to flame the opening of the outdoor hose bib for at least 1 minute. Allow the metal a moment to cool before collecting the sample, especially in cold weather. Finally, sample prior to any installed filters or water treatment system.

How much water do I put in the container for the bacteria test?

Fill the container to the neck and not completely full. Too much water is better than not enough. The sample will be rejected if there is not enough water volume. (The reference line on the container is for lab use, so please ignore it.)

What are some reasons that a bacteria sample may be rejected?

Reasons include insufficient volume, sample receipt outside of acceptable processing time frame, cracked containers, and improper containers. For a valid bacteria test result, samples must be processed within a certain timeframe. We may not be able to process a sample immediately upon receipt. Therefore, please submit the sample the same day you collect it. Otherwise, email us concerning your situation to see if you can still meet the timeframe. Samples must be kept cool after collection. Store the sample in a refrigerator if you have a delivery delay.

What is the turnaround time?

We offer next-day results. The bacteria test requires a 24-hour incubation period. Samples received during the day are processed in the evening. The results are ready the next evening. If you are in a hurry, please email us and let us know. We may be able to start the test upon receipt of the sample and have the results that much sooner. The chemical tests can be performed the same day as the sample is received.

How do I get the results?

We will email the results to you as a PDF attachment.  We can also email the results to your mortgage company and to the Health Department for you.

For a real estate transaction or construction permit, when should I get my water tested?

Check with the organization or agency that is requesting you get a water test on their requirements. For most situations, the bacteria test results are valid for 30 days. So, you should submit the sample to us as soon as possible within 30 days of closing. If your test comes back positive for bacteria, then you will need time to sanitize your well and retest. If the well is treated and re-tested twice and still fails, then this may indicate that there is a structure issue that needs to be addressed.

What if there’s a problem with my water? 

We provide resources and referrals for professionals and companies that handle well sanitization, evaluate and fix well problems, and perform well inspections.

What is the difference between your lab testing and do-it-yourself test kits available in big box stores?

Laboratory testing is preferred for more precise results over home testing kits. Lab tests are required for real estate transactions including refinancing your mortgage. We also provide personalized customer service and are available to answer your questions by phone.


Water Systems Council

Resources for Well Owners

Well Owner’s Manual

Virginia Department of Health

Real Estate Transfers FAQ

Find Your Local Health Department in VA

VA Co-op Extension

Well Informed VA

Tips and Types of Wells

Environmental Protection Agency

Household Wells EPA

Water Sense

Water Well Journal

Preventative Maintenance

SE Rural Community Project


Loan Application


Private wells in Virginia
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