What Makes Private Drinking Water Wells Unsafe?

What Makes Private Drinking Water Wells Unsafe?

Private drinking water wells become invisible for many well owners. They are out of sight, mostly underground and just keep providing water, year after year. Well owners may forget that their wells need regular inspections, testing and repairs to keep supplying healthy water to the household. 

When well water becomes impure, there’s a long list of problems that can result. These range from digestive upsets to rashes and from infections to organ failure. A sick well is not a small matter! The reason for an unsafe well should be promptly diagnosed and remedied. 

Finding the Correct Cause of Unsafe Water

At ETR Laboratories, we test for hundreds of different contaminants. Right away, that tells you how many different problems can plague wells. The solution starts with an analysis of the water testing results. These results will often point a homeowner to the remedy. 

Here are just a few of the many different types of problems that may need to be addressed to keep well water healthy: 

  1. Wells are fitted with caps that are supposed to keep materials from the outside out. These caps can be poorly made or old and no longer tight-fitting. A loose cap can allow insects in, introducing fungi and bacteria into the water. Organic matter like leaves, moss or lawn clippings can enter. In a rainstorm, the surface water can enter the well, bringing fertilizer, pesticides, petroleum products, paint residues or other chemicals with it.
  2. Once insects make their way in, they may build cobwebs and feast on other bugs that live in the well. In one inspection done by our staff, bees had built a nest inside the well’s casing. We’ve even seen a multi-level hornet’s nest inside a well. These hornets and bees are depositing their wastes inside the well and you definitely don’t want that material in your well water. 
  3. Many wells are improperly built, with the well cap at ground level or even underground. Any water draining into the area can leak through the cap, taking all kinds of contaminants with it, including salt from road applications during the winter. Any well caps sitting above a natural ground surface should clear it by 18 inches.
  4. Your well needs electrical power to run the pump but this means that there is wiring or an electrical conduit entering the casing. If there is any gap as the electrical connection enters the well, insects, rodents or snakes can get in. We were called out to find the cause of poor water quality at one house and found a dead mouse floating in the well. It was easy enough to diagnose the problem with that well! 
  5. Wells need to be disinfected on a regular basis. An annual test will tell a homeowner if it’s time to disinfect. Other signs like smell or odor, staining of laundry, cloudy water or loss of water pressure are also signs that disinfection is due. If disinfection is not done, biomass can accumulate and cling to the sides of the casing.
  6. The casing of the well could be damaged or it might also not be deep enough. In either case, contamination can seep in from the surrounding land. When the casing is deep enough, contamination will not normally enter the well.
  7. Artesian wells in which there is a natural amount of pressure causing the water to rise to the surface will have some kind of overflow pipe to let water out. This opening can let small animals and insects in. A well drilling or repair company can cap an artesian well in such a way that excess water can still escape but wildlife can’t get in. 

If that seems like a lot, it’s only a short list of all the problems that can make wells unsafe! Diagnosing the right problem and coming up with the solution starts with a comprehensive and accurate water test.

Give us a call if you are tackling unsafe water from your well. We’ll match you up with the right test for your situation and help you understand your results. Call (800) 344-9977 today.