Most reports about well water contamination will generally focus on infiltration by agricultural, industrial, fire-fighting, military or landfill chemicals. These toxic substances seep through soil and bedrock or are carried into unsealed wells in surface water. While no one wants any of these contaminants in their well water, there are quite a number of naturally occurring contaminants that can be just as harmful.
There is no way to eliminate naturally occurring water contaminants from groundwater because they exist in the soil and rock all around us. Still, these natural substances still don’t belong in our household water because they are harmful to humans. Some of them are also destructive for plumbing systems and appliances. It is best to know what is in your well water so you can select the right filter to remove those contaminants.
List of Naturally-Occurring Contaminants
Calcium: While calcium is essential for good health, it is not good for plumbing and appliances. High levels of calcium and magnesium make water hard, which means the effectiveness of soaps and detergents is reduced. Calcium deposits can accumulate inside pipes and appliances, eventually reducing the flow of water. This can be especially harmful for water heaters.
Magnesium: Like calcium, magnesium is important for a healthy body. Together with calcium, magnesium in well water makes it hard, resulting in scaly deposits on taps and an accumulation inside appliances and pipes.
Mercury: Mercury entering well water from mineral deposits is extremely toxic. Even small exposures can cause kidney damage. Higher exposures can cause brain damage and harm to fetuses, vision, hearing and memory. Western portions of America are more subject to mercury contamination.
Radon: Groundwater passing through rock that contains these radioactive particles can carry this gas into well water as well as the air in a home. Radon is the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking.
Lead: This metallic mineral is in the rock underlying much of America. Like mercury, there is no safe level of lead in our drinking water. Lead causes delays in the mental and physical growth of children. It can also harm children’s ability to learn and increase blood pressure among adults.
Arsenic: According to the National Institutes of Health, arsenic levels tend to be higher in rural communities in the Midwest, Northeast and Southwest. Arsenic in drinking water can lead to skin, bladder or lung cancer. There is a higher incidence of diabetes, heart disease, child mortality and problems in pregnancy when the population experiences a long, continuous exposure to this mineral.
Antimony: Antimony seeping into well water can harm the heart, gastrointestinal system and blood glucose levels. Long-term exposure has been associated with increases in lung cancer.
Cadmium: It is difficult for the human body to eliminate cadmium that has been consumed in well water, which means that this mineral will tend to accumulate in the kidneys. Long-term exposure can result in kidney disease. Children are more vulnerable to damage from cadmium in well water as it causes decreased bone strength. Cadmium can also harm the nervous system and cause learning issues.
Chromium: Some types of chromium are very harmful to health, and complicating matters is the fact that chromium changes its form repeatedly. Chromium-3 is healthful in trace quantities but chromium-6 is a very harmful carcinogen.
Copper: Small amounts of copper are needed for health but too much results in stomach distress, diarrhea and kidney damage. Children under one year of age do not yet have the ability to eliminate copper and so may be harmed the most by copper in well water.
Selenium: Selenium has been found in the drinking water of 49 states. In five of those states, it was found at levels too high to be healthy. Extended exposure to higher levels of selenium can cause the loss of fingernails or hair, circulation problems and numbness in extremities.
Nitrite: Nitrite occurs naturally in plants and soil. Too much nitrite in drinking water affects the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. Babies exposed to high levels of nitrite can turn a bluish color and have trouble breathing. Exposure to higher levels over a period of time can also cause cancer.
Getting These Substances Out of Your Water
The first task is determining which of these naturally occurring contaminants may be in your water. A comprehensive water test from a professional water testing company will warn you if any of these metals, minerals and other substances might be present. At the same time, you can learn about industrial or agricultural contaminants that might be leaking into your well water.
Once you have the results of this test, you can make a decision about the right kind of water treatment or filtration to add to remove them.