If we all lived in the middle of the wilderness with no roads, agriculture or industry anywhere near us, the purity of water in our private wells wouldn’t face as many challenges. We would not be trying to filter out nitrites from a nearby animal feeding lot or cadmium from a landfill a mile away. Salt from ice removal on a nearby road would not be an issue, nor would what they call “forever chemicals”—PFAS—from industrial uses.
But most of us don’t live in the wilderness and we do need to be cautious about what may be found in our well water.
On the other hand, even if we did live in the wilderness, we might still encounter naturally-occurring toxins in our water such as arsenic or uranium. Or we might find parasites or bacteria. No matter where we and our wells are located, it’s a vital part of staying healthy to know what’s in your well water and know how to remove any contaminants that could affect health.
Common Contaminants of Private Wells and Their Effects
Across the nation, these are some of the unwelcome substances you could find in your well.
- Arsenic: This is a naturally-occurring semi-metallic element that can enter your well from the surrounding bedrock. When consumed in drinking water, it increases the risk of cancer and can contribute to diabetes.
- Nitrates: Nitrates are naturally-occurring, but most of the time when high levels of these chemicals are found in drinking water, they come from agricultural activities. Either feed lots producing large amounts of animal waste or heavy fertilizer use can add them to private wells. Nitrates in drinking water are particularly dangerous for infants, as they block the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. The resulting condition called blue-baby syndrome can be fatal.
- Radon: An invisible radioactive gas escaping from the earth, radon is one of the most significant causes of lung cancer. It can make its way into well water and so then ingested or inhaled.
- Lead: This is not a contaminant you want in your household water. It can enter drinking water due to industrial contamination. More likely, this contamination results from aging lead pipes or a water pump that contains lead parts. Exposure to lead in drinking water can cause cancer, anemia or liver, kidney, or intestinal damage. Children exposed to this water can suffer brain or nervous system damage, slowed development, learning difficulties and other problems.
- Bacteria and other microorganisms: Not all microorganisms are harmful, but many are, commonly causing stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea, pneumonia or other problems. Some microorganisms also cause life-threatening problems for a person who is immunocompromised.
About the Effects of Well Water Contamination
Any of these problems caused in humans may also be caused in pets. It’s also important to note that it could require years for the full effects of contaminated water consumption by either animals or humans to be visible. Many contaminants accumulate because it’s not possible to fully and immediately eliminate them, so their effects can gradually intensify.
Effects may be most pronounced when starting to consume well water from a new or unfamiliar source. That’s because the human body will adapt to the substances in water over time. So babies, visitors and new homeowners may be most prone to suffering the harmful effects of poor quality well water.
Protecting Health by Ensuring Clean, Pure Well Water
When a home is supplied by a private well, it’s vital for the homeowner to know the quality of their water. Test results from a professional water testing lab can be available in just a few days, and provide an accurate look at the water quality.
Once the contaminants are known, the next step is finding out what type of water treatment or filtering system will eliminate or reduce them. With your system in place and annual water testing to ensure the system is working well, your whole household can be comfortable consuming the water.
Only accurate water testing will prevent the short-term and long-term problems listed above. When you need to know exactly what’s in your water and how to correct it, contact ETR Laboratories immediately at (800) 344-9977.