Did you know that the majority of Americans filter their drinking water? A recent survey found that 77% of our neighbors are using some kind of filtration system for the drinking water served in their homes. That applies whether they are serving well water or community water to their families and guests.
A home supplied by a well has just as much need to filter their water as a home supplied by any other source. Not only can a well accumulate bacteria, fungi and viruses from plant or animal infestations, but it can also suffer contamination with agricultural or industrial chemicals carried by groundwater or surface water.
However, did you also know that the type of filter that would be best for the well water in your home depends completely on what contaminants are present in your water supply? Different types of filters will eliminate different minerals, chemicals or organic materials. You will get the best results if you match the type of filter to the characteristics of your water supply.
That means that you will need to have a professional water testing lab check your water before adding a filtration system. Otherwise, you might actually purchase a more expensive system than you really need. Or you might still be letting worse contaminants through while you filter out relatively harmless ones.
Most Common Types of Filters
The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit consumer protection organization that monitors water quality around the country while also advocating for healthier standards in chemical manufacture and use. This organization recommends three types of filters for most water purification needs.
Activated carbon: Most activated carbon filters improve taste and odor. They also reduce lead, mercury, community water disinfection byproducts, PFAS and volatile organic compounds. They cannot remove arsenic, fluoride, nitrate or perchlorate (rocket fuel).
PFAS is short for per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances. These chemicals don’t break down once they are in the environment so they are dubbed “forever chemicals.” Very low doses of PFAS are linked to suppression of the immune system and increased risk of cancer, higher cholesterol and reproductive problems.
Volatile organic compounds or VOCs are gasses emitted into our environment by newly manufactured household products such as mattresses, curtains, furniture and anything with a synthetic fragrance. This class of chemicals includes toluene, formaldehyde, benzene and tetrachloroethylene. Exposure to these chemicals can cause dizziness, fatigue, skin and eye irritation and breathing problems. Long exposure is linked to liver, kidney and central nervous problems, as well as cancer.
Reverse osmosis: This type of filtration removes arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate, perchlorate and PFAS. It is unpopular with some people because it wastes five units of water for every unit of usable water. This is likely to increase the household water bill.
Ion exchange: This filter reduces nitrate, fluoride, lead, sulfate, arsenic, calcium and magnesium. The removal of calcium and magnesium will provide softer water that will not build up deposits on plumbing fixtures and in appliances or showers. However, there are still many common contaminants that ion exchange will not remove.
Specialty Water Filters
While the above filtration systems will suit most people’s needs, there are two more filters that might be needed in specific situations.
Sediment filters: Households that rely on well water may want to add a sediment filter to their systems. This can be a separate filter or a feature added to a water-softening system. It will remove sand, silt, dirt and rust but not chemical contaminants. A sediment filter will help protect a water treatment system and may be used in combination with other filters.
UV purification and sterilization filter: Anyone who has concerns about microorganisms in their water supply may decide to add a UV purification and sterilization filter to their water system. This filter kills viruses, molds, bacteria, algae, yeasts and other microorganisms such as cryptosporidium and giardia. A household with an immunocompromised individual may want to add this type of filter.
The First Step: Accurate Water Testing
Knowing what needs to be removed from your well water requires a test that is far more extensive and accurate than an inexpensive test that can be obtained in a home improvement store. Having the right test done should be your first step before purchasing a filtration system. Then you can tailor your choice of filtration to the contaminants that need to be removed.
At ETR Laboratories, we can not only provide you with the best water test for your situation, we will get on the phone with you after you get your test results and advise you on the right filtering for your water. There is no charge for this advice—we just want to use our experience and expertise to help you get the best filters for your household. Call us at (800) 344-9977 if you need help choosing the right test for your situation.