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Free water tests sell out quickly, but low-cost kits available statewide to ensure private well water safety

“You had me at ‘free’.”

That’s the sentiment of 15,000 Michiganders who last month stormed EGLE’s website to secure a limited number of free well water testing kits. The kits sold out in a week, with a huge 6,000-request spike on September 11 when MLive ran a story on the offering.

Water running out of a faucet.

The kits were funded by a $5 million appropriation from the state legislature. While there are no immediate plans for additional free testing, EGLE officials are discussing the demand illustrated by the quick sell-out and how to better inform and equip Michigan’s private well owners about regular testing. More than 1.1 million Michigan households rely on wells, with 15,000 new ones drilled annually.

“Homeowners with private wells are the owners, managers and inspectors of their own drinking water systems,” said Sara Pearson, Source Water Unit Supervisor of EGLE. “We are blessed with access to the world’s greatest freshwater ecosystem that provide source water for all of Michigan, but it is important that well water be regularly tested for contaminants to ensure healthy water for families across the state.”

Hundreds of Michiganders have contacted EGLE after learning the free kits were all spoken for, and many have been surprised that the cost of the basic test is less than they had anticipated.

For $16, residents can have their water tested for bacteria; $18 for partial chemistry that includes nitrates, nitrites, fluoride, chloride, sodium, calcium, magnesium, sulfate, and iron; and $124 for complete metals for private wells including arsenic, selenium, barium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, lead, manganese, copper, and zinc.  Additional tests are available for other contaminants.

Information including how to order kits and their prices is available on EGLE's Private Residential Water Well Testing web page.

Arsenic can also be requested as a standalone test. Arsenic is predominantly present in the thumb region down through southeast Michigan where it naturally occurs in the geologic formation. Local health department laboratories offer bacteria and nitrates as a minimum. Some offer additional testing for arsenic and other contaminants.

PFAS testing has been requested by many people. This offer did not include PFAS testing because it is more expensive ($290 per test), and would have dramatically reduced the number of free kits available.