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A Landlord’s Guide to Residential Water Quality Testing

Did you know that August is National Water Quality Month? Ensuring safe drinking water in your rental properties is an integral part of being a landlord. But, how does residential water quality testing work, and what are your requirements as a landlord? Read along as we discuss these topics and why they’re so important for your rental business. 

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Why Is Residential Water Quality Testing Important?

Residential water quality testing is crucial to ensure your tenants and guests consume safe and healthy water. 

Water quality depends on where it’s sourced and its treatment. That said, public water is monitored and tested regularly to meet the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations set forth by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

The SDWA sets guidelines for water quality, water testing schedules, and water testing methods. However, water from private wells or smaller community systems must be monitored by the owner of that well or system. As such, landlords have a large responsibility when it comes to water testing

House Bill 1069

In April 2021, Maryland’s legislature passed House Bill 1096, which provides drinking water protections for tenants who rely on well water. Although public water is monitored and tested to meet EPA safety standards, private wells are not. 

Before Maryland’s legislature passed the bill, rental occupants may have been at risk of possible water contamination. After all, tenants don’t have control over the quality of their water supply. In addition, state requirements vary; not all of them provide protections for tenants relying on well water. Maryland was one of five states with few protections. 

HB1069 was enacted to protect residents and ensure all tenants have access to safe drinking water. As such, landlords are responsible for monitoring and testing their private well water quality. 

Requirements for Maryland Landlords

water-analysis

Maryland’s HB1069 set guidelines and requirements for landlords regarding well water testing. The new law requires landlords to: 

  1. Test well water on all rental properties through a state-approved laboratory every three years
  2. Disclose water testing results to existing tenants
  3. Disclose recent well water quality test results to any new tenants before they sign a lease agreement
  4. Fix contaminated well water within 60 days of testing
  5. Provide safe water supply to tenants until the contamination is remediated
  6. Notify Maryland Departments of the Environment (MDE) and local health departments upon findings of unsafe levels of contamination

If landlords don’t follow these regulations, they will receive a civil penalty of $1000. Additionally, MDE must submit any findings of water contamination to the General Assembly. To ensure compliance throughout your rental properties, talk to your local rental property management company in Baltimore

How Does Water Contamination Occur?

Private wells use groundwater. However, polluted groundwater is no longer safe to drink. As such, it’s important to identify sources of water contamination. Some causes of the contamination may include: 

  • Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals
  • Sewage release
  • Local land use practices
  • Wildlife
  • Fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals near water sources
  • Cracks in water pipes

If you find contaminants in your private well water, it’s crucial to report them immediately. Contaminants in drinking water can cause illness, so it’s best to test your water at least once a year. Here’s how you can treat your well water to help avoid contamination. 

Residential Water Quality Testing for Contaminants

There are specific measures that landlords must take to test their water for contaminants. For instance, a Water Quality Indicator (WQI) test measures the presence of germs in drinking water. It’s important to note that WQIs don’t necessarily cause sickness. However, they could indicate the presence of sewage or disease-causing germs in the water. 

Water Quality Indicators

Some examples of WQIs include:

  • Total Coliforms- Bacteria coliforms are microbes found in the digestive systems of warm-blooded animals, in soil, on plants, and in surface water. Although these microbes won’t cause illness, they can cause diseases that are hard to test for in the water. As such, total coliforms are tested instead, indicating if harmful germs are present in the water. 
  • Fecal Coliforms- A specific type of total coliform is fecal coliform bacteria. Feces in humans or animals contain millions of fecal coliforms, including E. coli. Fecal coliforms and E. coli are generally harmless. However, the presence of these microbes can indicate feces and harmful germs in your water. 
  • pH Levels- The pH level of your water tells you how basic or acidic it is. Different levels of pH can affect how your water looks and tastes. That said, if the levels are too high or too low, it can damage your pipes, cause heavy metals to leak out of pipes, and may eventually cause sickness. 

water-contamination

Harmful Contaminants

While these Water Quality Indicators don’t necessarily cause sickness, other contaminants will. Some examples of harmful pollutants include: 

  • Nitrate- Although generally found in many types of food, high nitrate levels in drinking water can cause sickness. Nitrate in well water may come from animal waste, private septic systems, wastewater, polluted storm runoff, and several other sources. That said, a nitrate test is best for all private wells. 
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)- Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that can cause severe health effects at high levels. Stemming from fuel-related or industrial chemicals, VOCs are crucial to test for in your well water. 

Treating Your Well Water Properly

There’s no surefire way to keep contaminants out of your well water. However, there are a few ways you can treat your water to protect against harmful contaminants and improve drinking water quality.  

Some common types of treatment include filtration systems, water softeners, disinfection procedures, and distillation systems. Filtration systems can remove impurities through a physical barrier, chemical, or biological process. 

Water softeners can reduce the harshness or “hardness” of water. A water softener generally uses sodium or potassium ions to replace harsh calcium or magnesium ions. 

Disinfection includes a physical or chemical process that deactivates or kills pathogenic microorganisms. Physical processes include ultraviolet light, electronic radiation, and heat. On the other hand, chemical disinfectants may consist of chlorine, chlorine dioxide, and ozone. 

Finally, distillation systems take impure water and boil it. Once it’s boiled, the steam is collected and condensed in a separate container, leaving many contaminants behind in the process. 

Contact a water specialist or wells system contractor to ensure the best treatment plan for your private well. 

testing-drinking-water

Tips to Ensure Safe Drinking Water

Although proper testing is required, if you want to minimize the risk of water contamination, here are a few tips to keep in mind

  • Get water testing tips and advice from your local health department to ensure safe drinking water. 
  • Properly maintain your rental home heating oil tank to prevent spills and leakage. 
  • Replace leaky toilet valves and replace washers on leaky faucets. 
  • Do not dispose of hazardous chemicals or waste in a storm or home drains. Instead, take chemicals like motor oil or antifreeze to assigned recycling centers. 
  • Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly and only when necessary. 
  • Remember that anything entering a storm drain goes directly to streams or groundwater, left untreated. 
  • Report suspected pollutant discharge or illegal dumping activity to local authorities.

Establish Safety In All Your Rental Properties

If you want to ensure happy and healthy tenants, it’s crucial to regularly test your water and provide residential water quality results to your renters. To ensure your rental properties’ compliance, hire a trusted property management team. 

Bay Property Management Group offers comprehensive rental management services to ensure you get the most out of your business. We provide tenant screening, maintenance services, rent collection, and more! Contact BMG today if you need management services in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, or Washington DC.