When buying a home water in the country, water should be one of the most critical considerations. Buyers will often trust the seller or realtor when a water sample is submitted to the local health unit. In some cases, the buyer will simply receive the test results through their lawyer. The goal of this publication is to raise awareness for the possibility of tampering with a water sample and the potential for illness to occur. When it comes to water, safety is of paramount concern and too often buyers purchase a home with a good water sample and never consider to test the water again. Unfortunately, the consequences can lead to illness and sometimes be costly.
Real estate transactions that include a lending institution (ie: mortgage) require a water sample for Coliform and E-Coli be taken to prove potability of the water. Currently, there are no requirements for who is taking the sample and often it is the Real Estate Agent or the Seller who will test the water and provide the results to the potential Buyer. In most cases, this does not present any problem as all parties act in good faith when taking the samples. However, when selling the property takes precedence this is not always the case. (Please read the case study for an example.) When you send your sample to the local Public Health Unit are you aware that most only test for 2 things? Coliform and E-Coli. These are very important but are not the only contaminants that exist in water supplies. The average person judges the Health Unit test as gauge of overall water quality and safety yet it is only an indication of Bacterial Contamination. No one is disputing that bacteria can make you sick but what happens if you have a something else in the water that the Health Unit does not test for? Does that make it safe water? Each test is one snapshot for a single day. What about the other 364 days in the year?
A young couple purchased a home on Manitoulin Island and requested that the water be potable as part of the reality agreement. The seller of the home provided a water sample to the realtor and the results were 0/0. The deal was completed. After moving in, the couple noticed a strong odour to the water and had the water retested at the local health unit. The results were >80 for Coliform and 58 for E-Coli. A very high bacteria count. How could this be possible with the water showing 0/0 weeks before? They hired an independent company to test the water and the test results were no different. The realtor was contacted and indicated that the seller provided the results and that it was not their responsibility as part of the contract. The young couple were left to fix the problem despite having requested potable water in the original agreement. In the end, they were left with no choice but to hire a company to fix the water as it was not safe to bath, drink, cook or shower in. While never proven, the suspicion is that the seller altered the water sample to sell the home. If you are selling or buying hire an independent company to test the water.
The water sample conducted during a real estate transaction is rarely for more than bacterial contamination. Yet most home owners believe that the water is safe if a 0 for Coliform and 0 for E-Coli is shown on the sample report. Bacterial Contamination is the only benchmark for water quality in most transactions. The possibility for altering a water sample using bleach or simply from another location exists and there is no regulation to stop this from occurring. As a buyer, you have the right to request independent testing and should not accept the water sample provided by the seller or realtor. Realtors can benefit from using independent testing companies to have complete transparency. For all the honest people, there are too many dishonest ones and it is impossible to know which is which. Using a company that specializes in water testing provides you with an accurate picture of bacterial quality. Additional testing for Hardness, Iron, Sulphur, Total Dissolved Solids, Ph, Copper, Tannin, Sulfates, Chlorides, Lead, Chemicals, Herbicides and Pesticides should also be conducted.
Best Practice Recommendation
Hiring third party testing companies that are independent of the buyer, seller or real estate agents is a good practice to know that a water sample has been conducted in good faith with no tampering.
Volume 1 – Issue 1 Wahl H2O - Educating Through Awareness
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