Private wells often suffer from that age-old problem: out of sight, out of mind! Because a well can’t be seen as a homeowner roams the yard, it’s far too easy to forget that wells need maintenance. They need just as much maintenance as a vehicle or one’s home. More, in fact, because the health of the family may be directly connected to the quality of the water supply.
At ETR Laboratories, we not only test water samples from wells across the country, we also do well inspections in Central Massachusetts. So we’re not just lab technicians. We know exactly what happens to wells that are not properly maintained because our inspectors look inside them. You would not want to drink anything from some of these wells!
Maintaining a Proper Testing and Disinfecting Schedule
The first thing well owners need to know is that they should plan on annually disinfecting their well and testing the water quality. Some websites—even ones with some authority—instruct homeowners to pour household bleach into their well to disinfect it. We don’t advise it because household bleach is heavier than water and can lodge in some corners of your water system rather than being washed out.
We send our clients disinfection kits that contain an FDA-approved chlorination agent that will safely disinfect their wells. Each kit also contains a water test to be used after the disinfection so the homeowner can see if the disinfection was successful. If all the well needed was a one-time disinfection, then the test result will be good. If there is a continuing source of contamination, that will show up in the post-disinfection test. The type of contamination showing up in the test will indicate what further action needs to be taken.
Signs You Should Test or Disinfect Again
If there is a structural problem with the well that allows surface water, animals or insects to enter the well, no disinfection process, no matter how effective, will permanently resolve the well’s problem. The following situations all call for new well water tests:
- The area the well is in was flooded.
- There have been repairs to the well.
- The water taste, appearance or smell deteriorates.
- The home has been empty for months.
- There is an unexplained illness in the household.
- A nearby septic system has had work done.
It’s also a smart idea to test your water if a new baby is brought home or an elderly person enters the household. These individuals are normally more sensitive to impurities in the water.
Bacteria in the water supply can result in digestive upsets or flu-like symptoms. Well water contaminated with organic minerals can affect the family’s kidneys, livers, and nervous systems.
What Happens to Neglected Wells
We’ve seen some pretty ugly well situations in our work. If wells are not disinfected, they can develop biomass. This is a mass of living organisms that includes any or all of the following: plants, animals and microorganisms like algae, fungi and bacteria. You do not want lumps of biomass sitting in your well.
Some of the wells we’ve inspected have had chunks of biomass stuck to the well’s casing. That well would not produce water anyone should be drinking.
Another well had an opening in the well cap that enabled small animals to get in. That particular well was found to have a dead mouse floating in the water.
Even small damage to the well’s seal can let bugs enter. Insects can introduce fungi and bacteria into the water. Disinfection alone will not resolve the problem. A repair is also needed.
Annual disinfection will eliminate living contaminants and a test after disinfection will tell you if you are dealing with a continuing problem that needs a more in-depth solution.
If you have a new well or you’ve just moved to a new home that is supplied by a well, you would be smart to get a comprehensive test of your water at that moment. After that, a more limited test done once a year can alert you to any problems that have recently developed. Testing twice a year gives you even more control over your water quality.
ETA Laboratories has all the different water tests you could need. Are you not sure where to start on testing or disinfecting your well? Call us, we’ll be glad to help you choose the right test: (800) 344-9977.