Unexpected Ways Your Well Water Can Become Contaminated

Even though the source water for your private well is far underground, the water that supplies your household can still suffer from contamination. There are hundreds of industrial chemicals, toxic minerals, bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses that can make it into the water that comes out of your kitchen taps. 

The source of contamination may be completely unknown to you. But once these toxic substances soak into the earth, they have the potential to reach underground water flows that can carry them for a mile or more. You may have no other option than to run tests on your water and choose the best filtration or treatment to eliminate the toxins. In some situations, there may be repairs needed on your well, well cap, landscaping or even plumbing. 

For your family to stay healthy, it’s important to monitor your well water quality to ensure that your water is clean and pure.

Sources of Private Well Contamination

Some of these sources are environmental and some are right at home. What is most startling is how far some of these contaminants can travel to make their way into your private well. 

Agricultural uses: Before you arrived on that piece of land, it could have been used for agricultural purposes. Chemicals, pesticides, bacteria, fungi or other contaminants may be resting in your soil or percolating through the bedrock around your home.

For example, when animals are raised on land, nitrates, bacteria or parasites make their way into the soil and then into the groundwater. Microorganisms like Giardia or Cryptosporidium have no place in your water. Nitrates prevent the blood from being able to carry oxygen, a problem that can be fatal for a newborn.

Airports, military or firefighter training sites: Many of these sites are contaminated with a large group of chemicals known as PFAS. They are used in firefighting foams, fire-retardant or stain-resistant clothes, non-stick cookware and much more. Any of these sites near you have probably introduced PFAS into the soil and groundwater.

There are hundreds of different chemicals in this group, some of which have been banned for years. Our soil and groundwater will continue to be contaminated with them for many more years. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they may not break down for hundreds of years, if ever. The Environmental Protection Agency has set a limit for one class of PFAS at 0.004 parts per trillion, which gives you an idea of how toxic it is.

Gas stations: Even if you do not have a gas station in your neighborhood, gas stations can be sources of contamination for your private well. Contaminants from gas stations include toluene, benzene, MTBE, xylenes and cadmium. Some of these chemicals are carcinogenic and others are particularly dangerous for children.

Metal plumbing pipes or components: Metal pipes, faucets, connections and solder can introduce metals like copper, iron or lead into the household water. This is especially true for plumbing that was installed before 1984. The older the pipes, the more likely it is that they contain lead.

Metal pipes used in an area where the source water is acidic are prone to corrosion. Not only is this damaging for the plumbing, it can add metals to the drinking water. Some people may suffer digestive problems from elevated levels of copper, and lead can impair the mental and physical development of children. Lead in drinking water can also harm the kidneys and reproductive function.

Plastic plumbing pipes: Newer plumbing may include polyethylene or polypropylene pipes. There are dozens of different plastic formulas used in these pipes, so it isn’t possible to nail down exactly which chemicals might be leached out of them. Vinyl chloride, a carcinogen, can leach out of PVC pipes. PEX is slightly permeable meaning that contaminants in the soil may be able to penetrate the pipe and enter the water. The chemical MTBE, used in gasoline, leaches from this plastic but the level declines over time.

Industrial operations: Former manufacturing plants may release any of hundreds of toxic chemicals into the soil, water or air. Paint manufacturers may intentionally or unintentionally release arsenic or lead. Mining operations can deposit lead and other heavy metals into the environment. Coal-fired power plants raise environmental levels of chromium-6, a carcinogen.

Protecting Your Home and Water

To keep your family safe, an annual water test is a must. It will tell you if you need to add filtration to your water system to remove chemicals that can harm your health. Knowledge and action start with well water testing—call ETR Laboratories for guidance in choosing the right water test. After your test, we can also help you with advice on the right water filtration to eliminate the toxins found. Call (800) 344-9977 today to get started.