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Drinking water is of course one of those things that you cannot do without. And for persons who rely on well water, the condition of the well dictates the condition of the drinking water quality. That is why, I believe that everyone should test their drinking water well before purchasing a house or any other building that relies on well water for drinking water purposes.

I suggest that everyone who buys and sells property be required to agree that a well water sample will be taken. In addition, I propose that every real estate contract contain a contingency which indicates what will happen if the drinking water quality is not drinkable (technically speaking, "potable.")

Finding out that drinking water is not potable is not fatal to a real estate transaction. There are many methods available for treating well water which does not satisfy legal drinking water requirements. Solutions ranging from charcoal filters to reverse osmosis to more complicated air stripping are routinely employed to clean water which is contaminated.

Historically, people used to purchase homes all over this country without testing well water. While at one time, when many of us were not aware of the health hazard potentials associated with dirty drinking water, that might have been justifiable, ignorance is not bliss and it is no longer justifiable to proceed with a real estate transaction where this vital information has not been disclosed.

In the event that drinking water is not potable, it is clear that a sale might be jeopardized. Even if that occurs, many fixes can be performed in a period of months and the house can be returned to the market. In addition, a prudent course might be for a seller to test the drinking water several months before placing the house on the market. In this manner, there will be no risk of losing a prospect because of the drinking water issue.

Finding out that water is not suitable does not mean that a homeowner will have to foot the bill alone. There might be an opportunity to file a claim with the homeowner's insurance policy. In addition, many states have loan and grant programs that are available to owners of properties with wells that have been impacted by hazardous substances.

In severe cases, or cases involving multiple properties, litigation against the polluters may be appropriate. Litigation is appropriate only when the source of the pollution is known. Often it is not known.

What are the kinds of contaminants likely to be detected in drinking water? The answer largely depends on where the home is situated. Homes in rural communities might have bacteria from animal waste and they might also have pesticide contamination. Water in more industrial areas might have solvents, oils, and other kinds of industrial fluids. Of course, these are just generalities, only real testing can inform an individual of the quality of the drinking water.

In addition to transactions in which houses are being sold and purchased, I also believe that renters must be given the same level of protection. Indeed, municipalities should consider ordinances requiring that apartment owners test the quality of their drinking water on a regular interval basis to insure that tenants are receiving the benefits of clean drinking water.

Drinking water is hardly a luxury. Indeed, certain kinds of contaminants can make people ill and even kill people. We are now in the twenty first century and it is important that real estate contracts recognize this problem and address the problem in the context of the real estate transaction. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to our health.

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