Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)

We have tried to answer the most commonly asked questions that you may have about our services and proceedures. If you find that your question has not been not answered on this page, please e-mail us or call us at (508) 946-2225.

Also, be aware of these helpful links:
   • Sampling Instructions
   • Well Chlorination Instructions
   • Sample Report - How to read your report.
   • Glossary - A glossary of terms, parameters, units, etc.
   • Useful Forms and Links

Q: I can get a free test from the water filter company. Why do I need to pay for a test from Analytical Balance?

A: The answer is our impartiality, quality, accuracy, and precision. We are certified by the state, which is your assurance of quality testing. We have nothing to lose or gain based on the results of your testing - we have nothing to sell you. Although most companies are reputable, their main objective is to sell their product. They offer a quick test on your water, their product being the solution to “fix it.” The filter company does a quick test on just your water. We test your water along with other samples, standards, quality controls, duplicates and spikes every time to ensure that the value we give you is precise. When was the last time the filter company’s kit was checked for accuracy against known standards? How can you be sure they are doing it correctly? You can’t. The filter company uses “field test kits” (similar to the strips used to check a pool or very small perfume bottles) which can, at best, give you a range of values. When it comes to making good decisions, a precise number is important. A common example is hardness. People are often told they have hard water and need a softener. But did you know that some hardness (50 to 150 mg/L) is good and it is possible to have too little? If the filter company can only tell you that the hardness is “between 100 and 200” or “around 150” their interest could be to sell you a softener that you may or may not need, or worse, it may cause corroded pipes! Test strips or color drops simply can’t give you the kind of precise numbers needed to make a tough and expensive decision. We also test for parameters such as bacteria, that the filter company may not include in their “free” testing. Bacteria are far more likely to cause illness than anything the filter company will test for. Finally, our potability battery will give you a more complete picture of your water quality and may actually help a good filter company tailor a treatment strategy for your needs.

Q: The water filter company can test my water with just a shot full of water- why can’t you? Why do I need to bring 1/2 liter or more of sample?

A: To test properly,we need plenty of sample to work with. The filter company uses “field test kits” (similar to the strips used to check a pool or very small perfume bottles) which can, at best, give you a range of values. We run very precise tests using state of the art instrumentation- not dipping strips in a shot of water. We are usually running more tests than the filter company, requiring additional sample. We also run duplicates and spikes of samples to ensure quality, which also would require extra sample. Also, we may require more sample to “digest” your water for metals analyses - if your water is turbid, not all of the minerals are in solution and the values that the filter company gives you may be artificially low.

Q: What tests do I need or want to do? Do I want to test everything?

A: Your choice of tests is ultimately up to you or whomever is requiring you to test. No, you don’t want or need to test for everything. If you are testing for your own peace of mind, we will be happy to give you some guidance based on your type of source, your location, the appearance or odor of your water, your concerns, local board of health recommendations, and your budget. For private drinking water, we generally recommend a Potability. A Volatile Organic test is also advisable if there are certain circumstances in the vicinity of your location (e.g., proximity to a gas station or junkyard). Arsenic is also highly recommended in certain towns in our region. Our Services page can give you more information. If you are being required to test, we can help assist you in contacting the appropriate people for information on their exact requirements - however, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that you are testing for all of the required parameters. Generally, there is seldom a reason to test for “everything.” You can spend $20,000 on water testing and still not test for “everything.” We can help narrow your testing down to the most important tests for your situation.

Q: How do I take a sample?

A: You can collect sample yourself, but there are certain instructions to follow in order to collect your sample correctly. For drinking water sampling, please read our Sampling Instructions.

Q: Can you take my sample for me?

A: Yes. A collection fee will apply. Contract rates are available if you have ongoing needs. If you are not confident in collecting the sample yourself or you want to be certain that the sample is collected properly, one of our trained staff can collect the samples for you. Also, some authorities (including some Local Boards of Health) require that the sample be taken by the laboratory for legal reasons. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.

Q: What bottles do I use? Where can I get bottles?

A: You may come to our office and pick up bottles for your testing free of charge. We will give you the correct bottles for the test and you can be sure they are free of contamination. If you are unable to come to our office, we can mail bottles to you for a small fee. Contact us to place a bottle order. You can use your own bottles for some testing, but it is not recommended. You can not use your own bottles for VOCs, SOCs, HAAs, and Radon. If you use your own bottle for bacteria testing, it should be sterilized by placing in boiling water for 5 minutes. Bottles for chemistry testing should be cleaned thoroughly with hot water and rinsed repeatedly with the water to be tested. Please note that some bottles may leach contaminants like arsenic. Therefore, we cannot guarantee results if the sample is collected in your container. If you prefer to use your own bottle(s), please be sure that you are giving us enough sample. 500 mL (16 oz.) is sufficient for most chemistry (potability) testing and a separate 100 + mL (4 oz) is required for bacteria testing. If you are testing for anything else, please inquire for your needs.

Q: When is my report going to be ready? Where is my report? Why isn’t my report ready?

A: For most samples, like a potability, your results will be mailed to you and you should receive them in 7 to 10 business days. If you have not received your report within this time, feel free to contact us. While we strive to meet everyone’s needs as quickly as possible, feel free to discuss your specific needs with us. We may be able to “rush” your sample. Occasionally, there are tests which must be rerun for quality control reasons or sample matrix problems. Sometimes, there are unforseen instrument problems. These may cause a delay. Also, there are some tests which we must subcontract to other labs. Unfortunately, this involves transit time and occasionally puts the scheduling of these tests out of our control. We will typically advise you if there are parameters on your order which will cause delay beyond the usual 7 to 10 days.

Q: Can you fax my report to me?

A: Unfortunately, we do not fax reports.

Q: Can you e-mail my report to me?

A: Yes! We can e-mail reports, in lieu of a mailed hard copy. However, if your testing has been mandated, a few authorities still require a personally signed hard copy, so this option may not work for you. Please note that requesting an e-mailed report does not mean you will get your results “overnight.” Testing of the sample, drafting, reviewing, and finalizing your report will still require the same allotment of time. This e-mail option will typically save only 1 or 2 business days by cutting out mail transit time.

Q: Are my results private? Do you release the results? Do you give the results to the State or any other authority? Can you tell me what someone else’s results were? Can you tell me what my town’s results were?

A: Your results are only yours. We do not release your results to anyone else without your permission. While the work we do for public water supplies is a matter of public record, it is up to that water supply and/or the state to release that information.

Q: How do I read my report? What do these numbers mean?

A: Please visit our Sample Reports page for more information.

Q: Someone called me and said my well has bacteria or coliform. What do I do?

A: First, you should ensure that the sample was taken properly. If you collected your own sample, you should review the sampling instructions. If you feel that contamination during sampling is the culprit, you may wish to retest, paying strict attention to the sampling procedure. Having our trained staff collect your sample may also be advisable. If you retest or the sampling was done properly and bacteria is present, this can be remedied by disinfecting the well with chlorine (bleach). If you wish to try this yourself, please read our Chlorination Instructions for further information. If you opt to not do it yourself, you may hire a well company. We can recommend one to you, if necessary. We do not perform these services directly. Please note that we do not endorse any well companies, nor do we accept any payment to recommend any well companies. Also, we are not responsible for any harm or damages which may result from your attempt to chlorinate your well - we merely present guidance in the instructions for knowledgable well owners which may work for a typical well. We offer no guarantee that these instructions will work for you or solve your bacteria problem. Sometimes, persistent bacteria problems indicate a damaged well or a well under the influence of a pollution source. These situations may require professional help.

Q: My well has chemical contamination. What do I do?

A: Most chemical contamination can be remedied by a filtration system, but this varies with the type and extent of the problem. We can direct you to resources appropriate for your situation. You may also wish to get your neighbors and/or Board of Health involved if there is reason to suspect there are others impacted by the same problem. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection web site may also be helpful to you.