Over the past few years we have written a few blog postings about the potential effects on water quality that gas drilling may have. Today, a woman named ‘Sylvia’ who lives in an area where a lot of drilling has started asks,

Looking to by a TDS monitor for personal use.

We have a lot of gas drilling starting where I live, I’m having my well and water checked by a professional well service. But there are a few of us that would like to have a tds monitor for after the fact to keep a check on our water instead of constantly having to pay a professional to find out if there has been any change. I would like to know if you have a tds monitor that would pick up pH, barium, chloride, and methane. iron manganese, hardness (calcium and magnesium), sodium, total organic carbon, strontium, oil&grease, detergents, lead, arsenic, alkalinity, coliform bacteria, sulfate and nitrate. Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) or a subgroup of VOC’s called BTEX (benzene etc.) along with radionuclides like gross alpha, radium and radon.

The first thing we need to point out: TDS Meters cannot detect all of those things. This does not mean, however, that they do not have their use in monitoring water quality in regions where gas drilling, or other industrial activities, take place.

Wikipedia describes TDS in the following manner: “Primary sources for TDS in receiving waters are agricultural and residential runoff, leaching of soil contamination and point source water pollution discharge from industrial or sewage treatment plants. The most common chemical constituents are calcium, phosphates, nitrates, sodium, potassium and chloride, which are found in nutrient runoff, general stormwater runoff and runoff from snowy climates where road de-icing salts are applied. The chemicals may be cations, anions, molecules or agglomerations on the order of one thousand or fewer molecules, so long as a soluble micro-granule is formed. More exotic and harmful elements of TDS are pesticides arising from surface runoff.” ( source )

Given the possibilities of what TDS meters COULD possibly detect, one could safely say that regardless of whether or not a person lives near gas drilling or not, a sudden change in TDS readings might warrant further investigation.

Sudden and/or drastic changes in the pH levels of source water may also serve as good reason to perform additional testing so having a pH meter handy may also prove beneficial.

At-Home Testing vs. Laboratory Testing

In a situation like Sylvia’s where a myriad of both simple and complex drinking water contaminants could show up at any time, we feel confident saying that no at-home test kit will protect her and her neighbors fully and we hope that local health officials will step up to the challenge of keeping tabs on local water quality by implementing a full regimen of independent testing… instead of blindly trusting the results handed down from private industry.

Without knowing how much your local lab charges for a ‘full battery’ of testing, Sylvia, we will suggest contacting companies like National Testing Labs to see what they have to offer.

Inexpensive Spot Checking Options

As we previously stated, occasionally testing the TDS and pH levels of source water may provide clues as to whether or not it contains contaminants. You may also want to test for the following:

A company by the name of Industrial Test Systems, Inc. manufactures an excellent test kit known as the Well Driller Master Test Kit which offers a number of useful tests designed for use on well water at a reasonable price — usually around $200 — and the kits come with multiple tests for each parameter.