If you live in an urban area, the answer may be obvious: municipal water is safe to drink. However, that isn’t always the case in rural areas where well water may be used for drinking, gardening, or even livestock. But this leads to one questioning whether the Well Water is safe for drinking.
As you might imagine, every well has its unique variation of contaminants and minerals. That’s why it is essential to regularly test your Well Water to monitor changes and ensure it remains safe for consumption at all times.
In this article, we will go over the most common causes for a potentially unsafe well and discuss how you can identify if it is unsafe before it becomes a bigger problem.
Is Well Water Safe to Drink?
It is the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Whether or not you can safely use the water from the nearby well? The answer, in most cases, is a resounding yes. That’s right, there is a very high probability that the well near your house is safe enough to drink – but only after going through a purification system.
Installing a local purification system or even a home-based purification system ensures that harmful contaminants such as bacteria, chemicals, and other elements are removed effortlessly.
Typically, the local health authority has some sort of notice issued to the public regarding the use of underground water (or instead not to use them). It is advised that one connect with them and verify whether any such notice is in place or not.
It is also crucial to understand that the water quality in the well is heavily dependent on the area where it is located.
Your location also determines which purification system is suited for your needs.
What Potential Problems Could be Associated With Well Water?
Although some types of Well Water can provide a cleaner source of uncontaminated pure water, many different kinds of contaminants exist in this type of water as well.
Some contaminants enter the water when it goes through an aquifer (the layer of groundwater wells drawn from). Other contaminants come from industrial, agricultural, and even residential sources. One must be on the lookout for them.
Here are some of the most common contaminants that one can find in the Well Water:
- Natural occurring elements: This includes iron, chlorides, sulfates, and manganese.
- Contaminants because of human waste: This includes human waste, cooking waste, engine oils, chemicals, and more.
Understanding the type of contaminants present in the well water would allow one to take proper steps to reduce their levels and make the water safe for use (for all sorts of activities). These are the contaminant categories that one needs to be aware of. Let’s have an in-depth look at them.
Naturally Occurring Elements
The earth’s surface contains many compounds that can seep into the groundwater and contaminate it. Natural contaminants include iron, chlorides, manganese, and sulfates. The level of these contaminants depends on what kind of bedrock there is, what type of soil you have, and the geography in which you live.
Contaminates Due to Rocks and Seawater
It is something that is sure to raise eyebrows as not many folks know about the possible contamination of the well water due to the presence of rocks and seawater, but such a thing is a reality. For instance, one type of contaminant found in limestone regions is barium.
Its presence has been linked to saltwater intrusion and increased levels of sulfates present within fresh groundwater supplies. This higher probability of sulfate contamination makes coastal water sources dangerous for use as drinking water.
It is also pretty standard for one to find heavy metals in their Well Water. Drinking water is sometimes tainted with unsafe levels of heavy metals that can damage your pipes and change the flavor of your water supply.
Iron, for example, typically comes from contact with nearby ferric rock deposits. Manganese is another common contaminant – it can make even a clear spring turn dark yellow or brown. But don’t worry too much! Heavy metals like these are usually safe to drink at lower concentrations, and some even benefit the human body.
Contaminants Due to Human Activity
It is not something that would come as a surprise to anyone. Human activities are heavily responsible for polluting our clean Well Water. Many of these contaminants make their way to the wells; therefore, one needs to be more aware of the various types of contaminants found in Well Water due to human activity.
1. Sewage Tanks
There is no better place to start than looking at the septic tanks commonly used in many households and industrial properties.
Sewage tanks are a very common way for humans to contaminate their environment. Around 25% of homes in the U.S. use sewage tanks to dispose of human waste.
Sewage tanks separate fats and oils from larger particles which eventually decompose before being released back into the soil, where it is slowly distributed and filtered through the groundwater. Improperly located or maintained sewage systems can release viruses, bacteria, and cleaners into an aquifer, making it unsafe for nearby people.
2. Industrial Actions
Some products cannot be thrown away with septic systems or down the drain – regardless of the type of sewer system used. These are mechanical oils, paints, paint thinners, and some disinfectants.
In many regions around the world, local authorities are empowered to make industries follow strict regulations for disposing of industrial chemicals because they can easily contaminate groundwater.
Arsenic poisoning in groundwater is usually due to industries such as smelting; copper, lead, and cyanide are similar in that regard. Paints, thinners, pesticides, and refrigerants improperly disposed of can cause volatile organic compounds to enter the water system.
All this can severely impact the quality of the groundwater and the water that can be found in wells, leading to severe health risks. Hence, one needs to check for the presence of industrial waste from a nearby plant in their ground well.
3. Bacterial Contaminants
Harmful bacteria typically reach groundwater supplies from improperly managed human and animal waste. One needs to be aware of three main types of dangerous bacteria. These are Escherichia coli, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium.
However, it should be noted that not all bacterial contaminants are actually harmful to the human body. Some bacteria, such as Coliform, have a positive impact.
In the grand scheme of things, only a tiny portion of aquatic bacteria are harmful to humans. But those that can contaminate the water and cause serious health issues to the drinker. Drinking bacterially contaminated water can lead to diseases such as Polio, Cholera, Typhoid Fever, Dysentery, and Infectious Hepatitis.
Read More About:
Taste, Smell, and Other Non-Health Issues Caused by Contaminated Water
Not all contaminants are a cause for concern. But regardless of if your drinking water is actively making you sick or not – it is still preferred to have water as clear and tasteless as possible.
Rusty-tasting water is prevalent amongst households that rely on private wells due to the accumulation of minerals and metals in groundwater.
If you’re experiencing metallic-casting or rotten egg-smelling drinking water from your tap, then it’s likely because there’s been a release of hydrogen sulfide gas into the air via contact between water and air. Levels need to reach 250 parts per million (ppm) before it begins posing severe health risks such as stomach ailments.
Black sediment found in Well Water can come about thanks to various things, such as new piping or old plumbing. For the majority, this sediment isn’t hazardous to human health – but check-up with experts who want to analyze what specific factors may be triggering it before reaching any conclusions.
Health Problems Caused Due to Unsafe Well Water
The quality of Well Water can be affected by many factors we have covered before. A polluted well has the potential to cause a number of health problems in your home. Problems related to unsafe Well Water include:
1. Skin Conditions
If your water is contaminated with bacteria or chemicals, you may experience skin conditions such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis. These skin conditions can affect people of all ages. Acne is commonly found in teenagers, while eczema is prevalent in adults.
If you find that Well Water affects your skin, you should stop drinking it immediately and consult a doctor. You should also avoid using the water for bathing your pets or children, who are also at risk of experiencing these skin conditions.
2. Respiratory Conditions
Many pollutants in Well Water can cause respiratory problems, especially in infants and older adults. Also, sponges and other items that have been in contact with contaminated water can increase the risk of respiratory complaints.
The bacteria present in polluted water can cause several respiratory conditions, such as:
- Illness in infants, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and respiratory infections
- Chronic respiratory conditions
- Asthma attacks can cause breathing difficulties, chest pains, and increased risk of heart attack
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can cause shortness of breath and reduced lung capacity
- Infectious lung diseases
- Cough that fails to subside
These are just some of the many health problems one can be infected by because of contaminated water.
3. Gastrointestinal Conditions
A number of chemicals present in Well Water can cause gastrointestinal issues. If you consume water that makes you sick, you may experience stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Drinking unsafe water increases your risk of developing a variety of health problems, such as:
- Kidney and bladder problems
- Headaches, dizziness, and muscle pain
- Diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and other medical conditions
4. Neurological Complaints
Some contaminants in Well Water can cause neurological complaints such as muscle stiffness, dizziness, and headaches. The bacteria in Well Water that cause botulism may also result in a condition known as Wasting disease.
This disease causes the body to become frail and thin, with muscle wasting and weak joints. Other neurological issues caused by Well Water include Seizures, Dementia, Nerve damage, Balance problems, and more.
5. Other Health Concerns
Other health concerns caused by poorly treated water include:
- Skin irritations caused by chlorine in the water
- Algae growth may cause an unpleasant smell and color change in the water
- Lack of hygiene which may result in bacteria and viruses being spread through the water supply
- Food poisoning, which is caused by bacteria that are present in the water supply
- Disease transmission, which may result in the spread of viruses, bacteria, and parasites
How to Ensure Your Water is Contaminant Free?
No one wants to fall ill because they have ingested contaminated water. So, it is essential that one ensures that their Well Water is purified and in perfect condition for use. The first step begins with testing the water.
Testing the Water
It is advised that you test the quality of the water frequently. And now you can test it at home using a test kit. You need to keep in mind that not all tests are the same; some look for a certain type of contaminant, and some only look for general quality. It’s important to know what local regulations are before testing so that you compare apples to apples when interpreting results.
Here are some ways you can test the quality of water in your well:
- Water Test Stripes: Easy-to-do-test that only requires one to follow the instructions carefully. Within 10 minutes of performing this task, you’ll see what it measures by looking at the color or reading the numeric value displayed on its surface. However, remember that these results aren’t 100% accurate all of the time.
- Professional Lab tests: It is possible to perform professional lab tests at home by a trained professional or to do them yourself and mail the samples back to a lab. These laboratory results are much more reliable than with test strips, and you will also receive a complete water quality report rather than having to match up colors from your strip to those on the color chart.
Purifying the Well Water
If your Well Water becomes contaminated, there are many ways to treat it. You can also have untreated or non-contaminated water treated for improved taste. Here are ways you can do just that:
- Water filtration system: This filtration system uses a biological, chemical process, or physical barrier to clean the water.
- Countertop water filters: These are affordable, small, and low-maintenance filters that one can install in their home.
- Water softener: Reduces the mineral content of the water.
- Distillation system: Boils impure water, which collects steam from the evaporated liquid, which is again cooled down after being condensed back into a liquid form.
- Disinfection system: Using either chemical (like chlorine or ozone) or physical processes (such as UV rays or heat) to kill pathogenic microorganisms.
- Chlorination: Using chlorine deactivates microbial organisms found in Well Water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Purified Well Water healthier than tap water?
Yes, it is. Purified Well Water will always taste better than tap water because there are no artificial or man-made chemicals present. It means we will get all the healthy benefits from pure drinking water with none of the unnatural additives.
Can one use Purified Well Water for cooking?
Yes, you can, and without any worries. The Purified Well Water, as evidenced by the name, is cleansed from any contaminants, making it suitable to be used for cooking purposes.
How can one get rid of bad smells in Well Water?
You will need 3 pints of chlorine bleach for every 100 gallons of water. You may want to double this amount if there are really bad odors present. Hydrogen sulfide is what causes these foul smells, and they tend to counteract the smell-destroying effects of chlorine.
It is clear to every reader by now that only some contaminants are dangerous to them, while the majority need to be limited in quantity.
To remedy this, you need to have your water checked by a professional (using a home-testing kit).
Once you know what unsafe substances lurk in your drinking supply, equip filters and purification systems, and you will be free to use your Well Water as you see fit!