Do You Know If Your Well Water Is Really Safe?
This article was published in the Houston Daily Journal on July 5, 2007.
Clean drinking water is a luxury many people take for granted. Most individuals feel safe drinking their well water, but many never have their water checked to see if it contains harmful chemicals or microorganisms. Contaminated well water may cause numerous health problems. You should have your well water tested annually or anytime the following conditions apply:
- you have frequent and unexplained illnesses in your household
- your neighbors have contaminated drinking water
- you detect any odd smells or tastes in your water
- you spill and toxic substances on the ground near your well.
There are several ways you can keep your well safe from contamination. Some of them include: doing regular well inspections and disinfections, keeping poisonous chemicals away from your well, keeping your septic system well maintained, and having your well tested annually by a professional. To inspect your well, look for holes or cracks in the well casing, make sure the well casing is not moveable, and check for leaking valves or water running from the casing. Seal all well openings, including pipe and wire holes around the well cap.
In order to disinfect your well, household bleach can be used. Remove the plug from the top of the well casing and pour the bleach into the casing. You can call the Health Department to determine the appropriate amount of bleach to use based upon the depth of the well. If your well depth is unknown, use 2-3 gallons of bleach. Begin with the faucet nearest the well, and run the water until you smell bleach. Once you smell bleach, turn the faucet off and repeat the process with all faucets, fixtures, and dead-end pipes (include hot and cold water, ice makers, toilets, etc). Allow the chlorine to sit in the system at least 8-10 hours. After 8-10 hours, begin with the faucet nearest the well, and run the water until you no longer smell bleach. This may take an additional 6-8 hours. Once no chlorine is detected, flush the remaining fixtures until no chlorine remains.
If you suspect a problem with your well water, it is important to contact a licensed well driller to inspect your well. Also, contact the Environmental Health office at the health department and we can take a well water sample and test for harmful coloform bacteria. An environmentalist from our office will come to your house and take a sample of water from your well. The water will be tested in our office, or if third-party certification is needed, it will be sent to an EPD laboratory.
To have your well water tested or to answer any more questions on well water safety, contact our office at (478) 218-2020 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The fee for well water testing is $50.
Environmental Health Specialist I
Houston County Health Department