How Do Contaminants Get Into Your Well Water?

From the outside, wells look like closed systems that completely protect the quality of your well water. But like any other household structure, they can age or suffer damage from outside causes. In some cases, the well may have even been built improperly so that contamination becomes inevitable. It’s a good idea to know how different contaminants get into your well water so you know what problems to look for. Here are some of the most typical reasons your water could contain too many undesirable substances that can cause problems for your health and your home. 
  1. Damage to the well casing or cap: If the casing is broken or cracked, water percolating through shallow soil or rock near the surface can reach your well. Likewise, a damaged well cap can admit surface water, small animals or insects along with bacteria, fungi and other pathogens.
  2. Improperly built well: In some cases, well casings are too short to protect the quality of the water. The EPA states that the casing should extend at least 18 feet underground. A casing that does not go deep enough could allow surface water to percolate through soil and enter the well. The casing should also extend at least 12 inches above the ground to keep out surface water.
  3. Buried well cap: With the casing extending at least 12 inches above ground and a tight-fitting well cap, surface contamination is minimal. But some homeowners bury their well caps for aesthetic reasons. Any surface water along with the chemicals, salts or organic matter it contains will now be able to contaminate the water supply. This problem is common with older wells. 
  4. Poor placement of well: A well must be placed in an area free from brush or overhanging trees and not in an area where water will flow toward it during heavy rainstorms. Because salting of nearby roads can also infiltrate a well, it should not be near a highway, road or driveway. 
  5. Contaminants from nearby lakes: Private wells near homes or ponds may have special problems because of the proximity of these bodies of water. Lakes and ponds often have high levels of fungi and iron bacteria which can leak into nearby wells. Lakes used for recreation can be contaminated with gasoline ingredients such as MTBE, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene or xylenes. These chemicals can seep through soil or bedrock and make their way into the aquifer and wells. 
  6. Naturally-occurring substances: Just because a substance occurs naturally in the soil or bedrock around a private well doesn’t mean that you want it in your well water. Contaminants such as arsenic, iron, radon, radium and uranium can make their way into your water from the surrounding bedrock.
  7. Industrial, manufacturing, mining, military or agricultural activities: Any of these operations can release toxins into the soil or water supply. Contaminants like nitrates, hydrocarbons, pesticides or toxic metals can be released into the soil and then make their way into the aquifer. It’s possible for these toxins to travel a mile or more underground.

The Vital Necessity of Well Water Testing

There may be nothing structurally wrong with a well and it can still end up contaminated with toxic substances. That’s why it’s vital to regularly test well water quality. A well that tests pure and healthy now may suffer contamination a year from now. Once a test has been completed, the well owner should understand the significance of their test results. Which contaminants are a threat to health? Which might be particularly dangerous for a new infant or an immune-compromised person? What is the right water treatment or filtration system that will remove these substances? Clients of ETR Laboratories have access to our staff to clarify and analyze their results and recommend the right solution. The solutions to well contamination can range from repair to the casing, well cap or pump to installing a filtration system to remove a newly-arrived source of water pollution. In a few cases, a new well may need to be dug in a different area not as prone to contamination. Concerned about what might be in your well water? Contact ETR Laboratories to select the right water test and get accurate advice on your best solution for any water problems. Call (800) 344-9977 today.