By Michael Rosenfield, WBZ-TV

MERRIMACK, NH (CBS) – Under a pink flamingo in a Merrimack, New Hampshire yard is the well that’s served the Flanders family for decades.

“I love having well water,” said homeowner Jim Flanders. “The purity of it, the cleanliness, it’s a huge difference.”

It’s a way of life for many in the Granite State.

But now there’s stepped up concern about the safety of the drinking water that comes from wells prompted by a warning urging everyone in New Hampshire with a private well to test their water after a study released this week found unhealthy levels of one or more toxic metals.

Steve Schwed, who’s president of the New Hampshire Water Well Association and also runs Thunder Well & Pump, says in general well water in the state is just fine.

“If it’s done right and properly maintained, it’s very clean, safe and a lot easier to use,” said Schwed.

Schwed gathers samples every day from concerned homeowners, using a blowtorch to sterilize spouts and then collecting about 100 milliliters. After samples are collected in the field, they’re sent to labs like Nelson Analytical in Manchester where technicians test for all sorts of toxins. And often, they find high levels of unhealthy contaminants.

“We’re finding arsenic above EPA’s threshold level at approximately a rate of 30 to 40 percent of the samples that we analyze,” said Andrew Nelson, owner and lab director. “So it’s significant.”

Drinking water with contaminants can lead to a host of health issues. Only testing will show if there are elevated levels of toxins.

“Most of the issues that are health concerns like arsenic, bacteria, uranium are things you never see, taste or smell,” said Nelson.

State officials say about 46 percent of New Hampshire residents rely on private wells for drinking water. It is not required that private wells be tested, but it’s recommended homeowners do so every three to five years.

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