Your Well Water Might Not Be Well
The most vulnerable water systems are those that serve smaller or rural communities.
As of 2017, nearly 1 in 7 Americans got their drinking water from private wells, which is roughly 44 million people in the United States who relied on private wells for drinking water.
Despite this, there are still no federal requirements for private well testing. In fact, private wells are exempt from the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water regulations that impose legal limits on more than 90 contaminates.
In most cases, private well owners are responsible for the safety of their own water, and because it falls on the homeowner to get their well tested, it doesn’t happen often.
Why is this so?
One reason might be that some people have a false sense of security if their drinking water “seems fine.” However, many contaminants often have no taste, odor, or color, and only lab testing can detect them.
The big reason, however, may be that testing costs money, so unless there’s an apparent reason to test for it, most people won’t do it.
If you’re looking for more information on well water safety, this website educates well owners on wells, groundwater, and protecting their health.
Private Well Contamination (signs your well water is making you sick)
Your private well could be at risk of contamination from many different sources. Contaminants in your drinking water can lead to serious health diseases like cancer and toxicity.
Here are some contaminants found in private wells and how they can affect your health:
Fluoride is generally known to help stop tooth decay. However, too much of it can cause skeletal fluorosis, a condition that causes pain and tenderness in the bones and joints.
These chemicals are found in inks, dyes, pesticides, paints, disinfectants and more. They can enter groundwater and contaminate your private well through waste disposal, spills, and surface water runoff.
High levels of these chemicals can cause damage to your kidneys, liver, circulatory system, nervous system, and reproductive system.
These types of heavy metals include arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, and more. They can contaminate your private well through groundwater movement, surface water seepage and runoff.
Ingesting high levels of heavy metals can cause acute and chronic toxicity, liver, kidney, intestinal damage, anemia, and cancer.
Nitrate and nitrite
These are present in chemical fertilizers, human sewage, animal waste and fertilizers. They can contaminate your private well through groundwater movement, surface water seepage and water runoff.
High levels of nitrate/nitrite in drinking water can cause methemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome,” that’s because they reduce the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.
These include bacteria, viruses, and parasites. People that consume drinking water containing these microorganisms can experience gastrointestinal illnesses and infections.
Water runoff from rainfall or snowmelt can also contaminate private wells by washing microorganisms into the well system or seeping underground.
How to Protect Your Well Water
Since it will be up to you to protect your home’s water, here are some tips that can help you protect your water supply:
- Be mindful of activities near your water source.
- Keep contaminates away from sinkholes and the well.
- Ensure hazardous chemicals are kept out and away from septic systems.
- You can slope the area around the well to drain surface runoff.
- Install a well cap/sanitary seal to prevent entry into the well.
- Keep your records updated about any well maintenance, like disinfection or sediment removal, that need chemicals in the well.
- You can hire a certified well driller for any new well construction, modification, abandonment and closure.
- Avoid using pesticides, fertilizers, etc. near your well.
- Don’t throw waste in dry wells or abandoned wells.
- Don’t cut off the well casing below the land surface.
- Pump/inspect septic systems routinely.
- Regularly inspect exposed parts of the well for issues like cracked, corroded/damaged well casing, broken or missing well cap, and settling and cracking of surface seals.
Aside from these preventative measures, one of the main steps preserve well water from contamination is to keep a distance from the well of the following:
Livestock Yards, Silos Septic and Leach Fields
Petroleum Tanks, Liquid-tight Manure Storage, Pesticide and Fertilizer Storage, and Handling
Testing Your Well Water Quality
As we mentioned earlier in this article, private well owners are responsible for the safety of their own water. That’s why routine testing for your private well is highly recommended.
Not only that, but regular testing can be valuable because it establishes a record of water quality. Having these records helps solve any future problems and in obtaining compensation if someone damages your water supply.
Here is when you should be testing your drinking water supply:
- If you have a new well/have replaced or repaired pipes, pumps or the well casing then you should check your water every year for coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids and pH levels.
- In the early months of pregnancy, and before bringing an infant home, you should test for nitrate. Do this again during the first six months of the baby’s life.
- The best time to test for nitrate is during the spring or summer following a rainy period.
- If you have taste, odor and staining issues, you should test for sulphate, chloride, iron, manganese, hardness and corrosion.
- If you’ve had a chemical or fuel spill or leak near your water supply, then test your well for chemical contaminants, like volatile organic compounds.
- If someone in your household is pregnant or nursing an infant.
- If there are mysterious illnesses in your family.
Usually, county health departments can help you test for bacteria or nitrates. If not, you can have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory. You can find one in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or visiting www.epa.gov/safewater/labs.
Problem with Your Well? (How to treat well water)
If you think your well water has been contaminated and are weary about associated costs to have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory, don’t worry. There are some other treatment options available for you:
Using liquid bleach to disinfect your well
This treatment is called chlorination or “shock chlorination.” The process flushes your well and water system with a chlorine solution to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. Disinfecting your well with chlorine is an excellent method to eliminate a one-time case of bacterial contamination.
TIP: Use chlorine in a well-ventilated area only. Make sure to follow the directions on the chlorine bottle label for safe storage and use. For flushing your well, use unscented household bleach that does not contain detergent or other additives such as fabric-guard.
Also note, if there is an on-going problem related to faulty well construction or contaminated groundwater, disinfection is only a temporary fix. In this case, you’ll need to have the issue investigated and corrected at the source.
Steps to disinfect your well
The process of disinfecting your well can take up to 24 hours to complete. Before you begin, make sure you store enough water to meet your household needs during this period.
Here are the steps!
- Mix liquid bleach in 10 to 20 litres of water.
- Take off the well cap and pour the mixed chlorine solution into the well. If your wellhead is buried with the old type of well seal, you can reach the well through the top of the well or through the air vent. If using the air vent, flush the air line with clean water after chlorination.
- Open one faucet in the system and let the water run until you notice the chlorine odour. Repeat at each faucet in the system one at a time, until all faucets have been completed.
TIP: Make sure to include inside and outside faucets, cold and hot water, dishwashers, toilets, baths, showers, sinks, etc.
- If possible, attach a garden hose to a nearby tap and place the other end in your well. Turn on the tap and let the water circulate for about one hour. This will recirculate the chlorine, making sure it is thoroughly mixed in your well.
- Seal the top of your well and let the system sit for about 12 hours, preferably overnight.
TIP: Do not leave chlorine for more than 24 hours because it may affect some pump parts.
- Flush the system by discharging the chlorinated water through an outside tap until the chlorine odour has completely disappeared – this procedure may take several hours. To complete the flushing, run each indoor faucet until the smell is completely gone.
TIP: When pumping chlorinated water to throw out, avoid discharging into your on-site sewage disposal system. Also, discharge chlorinated water away from streams, grasses, shrubs, and landscaped areas. Chlorine will kill plants and is hazardous to aquatic life.
Clean Water Supply
Your health and the health of your family is reliant on clean, safe water. Even if you use well water as the water source in your home, by treating your water source at the point of entry, you’re ensuring all appliances and water sources are providing filtered, high-quality water.
Here are some ways to ensure your home is supplied with clean, safe water at all times:
A Filtration System
A water filtration system removes different kinds of contaminants and impurities from your water supply.
If you opt for a filtration system, then you will have an array of options to choose from. Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of filtration systems available on the market:
Whole House Water Filters
One of the easiest ways to ensure your home is supplied with clean, safe water is to use a whole house water filter.
One of the reasons why people opt for a whole house water filter system is to ensure clean water from all water faucets in the house.
If you use well water as the water source in your home, the water filtration system will screen the bacteria and other impurities out of the water.
The whole house water filter systems filter more than 20 gallons of water in an hour. This is opposed to other home filtration systems like the reverse osmosis system, which can only filter specific gallons daily.
These filters are often long-lasting. For example, some brand filters last 3 – 10 years, depending on the model you buy. This saves you maintenance costs as the only thing you need to do is to change the filters.
Check out this guide for the best whole house water filters available on the market today
NOTE: Most people will argue that the reverse osmosis system offers better water filtration results. Yes, it does, but the cost of installing a reverse osmosis system at each water faucet in your home can be expensive. For this reason, we suggest that you install the reverse osmosis system in the kitchen sink where you draw drinking water from.
Faucet Water Filters
If you’ve read some of our previous articles, you’ll know that tap water is becoming increasingly unreliable.
In some places in America, it’s even dangerous. Community water treatment processes leave chemicals, and many community water treatment systems are merely ineffective.
A faucet water filter will reduce many of the contaminants that are found in household tap water. Here are 3 main benefits of using water filters in your home.
1. Better smelling/tasting drinking water
One of the biggest grievances about tap water is its taste or smell, which has most people opting for bottled water. However, while this may seem like a better option when you factor in the cost and environmental factors, water facet filters win.
2. Protecting your body from disease
In addition to better health, water filters provide safe and clean water for cooking, as well.
3. Low costs/better for the environment
According to onegreenplanet.org, it takes an estimated 17 million barrels of oil per year to make plastic water bottles and takes even more energy to have it transported throughout the world. Additionally, 80% of bottled water ends up in landfills.
Water filters, on the other hand, are low in cost, can be delivered automatically to your door, and can even be recycled.
Check out our guide for the best faucet water filters here.
Ultraviolet Water Filter
An ultraviolet water filter can purify all of the water that comes into your home. These filters come in different sizes and with different filtering technologies and features.
Furthermore, there are specific microorganisms, like Giardia, which are resistant to chlorine treatments. An ultraviolet water filter can remove risks that your municipal treatment plant may be unable to address.
Residential ultraviolet water filters give you the peace of mind of knowing your water isn’t swarming with harmful microorganisms.
Check out our Reviews of the Best Ultraviolet Water Filters of 2024 here.
Reverse Osmosis Systems
Reverse Osmosis has been successfully used to treat water in various conditions. These include desalination of seawater, purification of brackish water, conversion of waste- and tap- water into safe, drinking water.
In comparison to other methods such as distillation, reverse OsmosisOsmosis is one of the water purification methods that use the least energy.
Best part? Reverse Osmosis can purify the worst wastewater, even industrial waste.
Check out our Best Reverse Osmosis System Reviews 2019 here.
The most common water problem that people face is hard water: roughly 85% of American households have hard water. Water described as “hard” is high in dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium.
According to the World Health Organization, hard water can cause potential harm to your health, skin/hair, and water-using appliances in your home. This is due to the tendency of hard water to stick to any surface it touches. Water softening systems remove calcium, magnesium, and other metal cations in hard water.
Water softeners work through a process called ion exchange, which removes calcium and magnesium from the water. A water softener is composed of three parts: a control valve, a mineral tank, and a brine tank. These work together to not only remove the minerals from hard water, but to also monitor the flow of water, and clean the system through a regeneration process.
If you are dealing with hard water, you will need a tool to soften it. Check out our water softener reviews here.
Poor water quality can impact your health and life in more ways than one. That’s why it is essential to educate yourself to understand what contaminants you are most susceptible to.
If you rely on a private well for drinking water, your water is not regulated by the EPA nor tested by anyone but you. Regular testing is essential to ensure contaminants aren’t leaching into your wells.
Without regular and proper testing, you can never be sure what’s in your water supply.
For more helpful insights and tips to help you improve the water quality in your home or community, check out our guides and product reviews about popular brands as well as DIY solutions for improving water quality.