Protecting Your Private Water Supply

If you rely on water from a private well as your primary water source, you should understand the potential health risks and impact this water may have on your household and personal well being. Ground water contamination has been found in all 50 states of the U.S. making it important to be vigilant in protecting your water supply.

Unlike public water systems that are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), private wells are not regulated.  It is estimated that 15% to 20% of Americans rely on their own private water supplies for drinking, bathing, cooking and general household use. If you rely on a private well water supply, you should take steps to ensure the water is safe.  Since well water is generally not treated to eliminate bacteria and other microbes, it may contain harmful contaminants that put you and your family at risk. All of us need water to survive. Contaminated water can be a threat to everyone, but especially to young children.

Investing in a good water filtration system is an easy way to get peace of mind that your water is clean, healthy and safe to consume and use throughout the house.  Adding a softening or conditioning component to the system provides added benefits to further minimize the damaging effects of calcium and magnesium build up on plumbing, fixtures and appliances.

What’s in Your Well Water?

Well water comes from ground water and can be impacted by a variety of environmental and geographic factors.  Following is a list of common well water contaminants and water conditions to be aware of:

  • Bacteria –In order to prevent serious illness, all well water should be tested regularly for microbial contaminants, inorganic and organic chemical compounds.
  • Nitrates–If you live in proximity to an agricultural area or have a septic system, water should be tested for nitrates. The most common sources of nitrates is runoff from fertilizer, leaking septic tanks, sewage and erosion of natural deposits. Once taken into the body, nitrates are converted to nitrites. High levels of nitrite can be deadly to infants under the age of 6 months and pose serious health issues to others
  • Pesticides and Herbicides—In addition to natural contaminants, ground water is often polluted by improper use of fertilizers, animal manures, herbicides, insecticides and pesticides.  These contaminants pollute ground water and may be passed along through the well water system
  • Arsenic—Arsenic is a naturally occurring semi-metal element in rocks, soil, plants and animals.  It is more prevalent in ground water sources than in surface water sources making well water more at risk. Human exposure to arsenic can cause both short and long term health effects, including cancer
  • Gasoline–If you live within a quarter of a mile of gas station, water should undergo a volatile organic analysis to detect the presence of gasoline and gasoline additives. When gasoline seeps into the soil it contaminates ground water sources.  Consuming gasoline in small amounts can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headaches
  • Radon—Radon is naturally occurring radioactive gas found in drinking water and indoor air.  People who are exposed to radon in drinking water have an increased risk of getting cancer, particularly lung cancer, over the course of their lifetime
  • Hydrogen Sulfide and Sulfates—Hydrogen sulfide and sulfates occur naturally in rocks and soil and can result from organic material or occur when wells are drilled in shale or sandstone.  Although not a significant health risk, these elements can be nuisance.  Hydrogen sulfide gives off a rotten egg small and taste and can produce stains on appliances and fixtures.  Sulfate can cause water to taste bitter and scale to buildup in pipes causing damage to plumbing and appliances
  • Iron Bacteria—Iron bacteria can be introduced to well water during drilling, repair or service.  If there is a musty, moldy or swampy odor associated with well water, an iron bacteria analysis should be conducted.  While iron bacteria does not pose a health risk to humans, it can damage a well system and dramatically impact water quality
  • Iron—Iron in water will present red staining on tubs, sinks, showers, faucet fixtures and laundry
  • Manganese–If you experience problems with brown or black staining of laundry, this may be due to high concentrations of manganese
  • Hardness— Hard water is the result of calcium and magnesium present in the water. These minerals form white scale buildup creating problems for water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers, plumbing systems and laundry.  This condition creates a lack of lather when using soap and can contribute to dingy laundry
  • Acidic pH Levels—One of the most common causes of pipe and fixture corrosion on private water systems is low water pH. Water with a low pH (less than 7.0) may have problems by leaching copper and lead from residential plumbing.

If you rely on a private well for water, you should have your well water tested every year for bacteria and other harmful contaminants to ensure your water is safe to use.   A smart alternative is to install a water filtration system for drinking water or for your entire home to ensure safe, healthy water for you and your family at all times.