How to Find the Right Cause of Your Well Water Contamination

Many experts support the opinion that well water can be healthier and more beneficial than city water. However, because no municipal or national organization monitors the quality of private wells, it is up to the well owner to ensure that their well is healthy at all times.

Ensuring a family has good quality well water starts with periodic testing to detect contaminants in the well. Once the exact levels of contaminants are known, it is possible to develop the right solution to eliminate them. The field of well maintenance is now so sophisticated that there is, essentially, a solution for any well problem. 

Step One: Determine If Well Water Has Any Contamination

Each private well owner must conduct their own water tests. When a well begins operation or a family begins to rely on a well in their new home, the most comprehensive test possible should be done. Once any problematic results of that test have been addressed, a basic test of the water should be repeated annually or if the water quality deteriorates. 

That comprehensive test should look for bacteria, toxic minerals and metals, radon, and dozens of different industrial or cancer-causing chemicals. It should also look for different undesirable attributes of the water, such as excessive acidity or alkalinity, sediment, tannins, odor or ammonia. It’s also good to look for herbicides and pesticides.

The best tests will not only tell you if a substance is present but will also tell you its quantity. From that, you can plan your solution. 

Step Two: Cut Contamination Off at the Source or Filter It

There are two main classes of well water contaminants: naturally occurring and man made. Naturally occurring contaminants mostly need to be filtered out. The exception is microorganisms which may be naturally occurring and should be eliminated with disinfection. 

Man made contaminants may be able to be eliminated at the source. If that is not possible, then filtering or water treatment will be needed. 

Examples of well contaminants: 

  • Heavy metals: Mercury and nickel may be naturally occurring or can result from industrial sources, even ones that are miles away. If the sources can’t be removed, filter the water.
  • Pesticides or herbicides: If there are agricultural activities or golf courses within miles, those could be the source. Well water needs to be filtered to remove them. If pesticides or herbicides are being used on the property with the well, ceasing their use can improve well water quality. 
  • Nitrites and nitrates: These often come from agricultural activities nearby. Filtering will be needed.
  • Microorganisms: Well inspection and repair may be able to eliminate the source of these microorganisms, for example, if bugs or small animals are entering the well and introducing bacteria and parasites. Once the source of contamination is eliminated, the well must be disinfected and retested. If the well is too close to animal pens or septic systems, the well may need to be relocated.
  • Industrial chemicals: These can seep into groundwater from firefighter training facilities, airports, industrial centers, gas stations, railroad yards and much more. The only solution is treating the water to remove these chemicals. 
  • Radon: Radon in water is naturally occurring. Filtration can reduce radon in water to safe levels and venting homes can greatly reduce radon from air.
  • Copper or lead: Corrosive water can dissolve the copper or lead present in plumbing fixtures so that it enters the water supply. The solution may include replacing plumbing and filtering drinking water until this is done. Water can also be treated so it is less corrosive and no longer dissolves metals.

Step Three: Remove Contaminants from Well Water

Different types of water filtration address specific types of contamination. Some well water may need more than one type of treatment to make it ideal for family consumption. 

The most common types of water filtration or treatment systems are: 

  • Reverse osmosis: Can remove arsenic, nitrates, rocket fuel (perchlorate), and some industrial chemicals. 
  • Activated charcoal: These filters can remove some heavy metals, sediment and chlorine. They also remove some types of microorganisms. The best ones are highly effective at removing PFAS, also called “forever chemicals.”
  • Ion exchange and water softeners: These typically remove calcium, magnesium, radium and barium. 
  • Distillation: This technology removes many minerals, bacteria and viruses, but not common chemical contaminants like chlorine, trihalomethanes or other industrial chemicals. 

Providing Your Family with Safe, Clean Well Water

A steady supply of sweet, clean well water is a true blessing. Maintaining that supply minimally requires annual water testing, proper water filtration and periodic inspections and repairs of wells. There is no monthly or bi-monthly bill from municipal water companies but some annual expense should be expected to keep that sweet water flowing. 

ETR Labs helps thousands of private well owners maintain this flow of clean, healthy water by providing fast, accurate results for well water tests. We can help you ensure that your family’s water is pure and safe.