This month, Water Treatment Topics takes a look at common problems that can afflict wells.

Certified laboratories can conduct water testing to ensure potability.
When someone goes to the doctor about a health problem, the care received may extend beyond the initial visit to include subsequent appointments and phone calls about prescriptions or recovery time. Likewise, water well drillers often may find that a job does not end with drilling the well but also can involve follow-up calls if there’s a problem with the water the well produces. Consequently, the driller can very likely find himself working in the capacity of a diagnostician. Much like physicians whose work involves diagnosing patients’ problems, the driller may find himself asking clients questions about the nature of the water problem and offering his advice on what needs to be done to resolve it. By supplying them with information upfront about their wells and what to do if changes occur, the water well driller can enable his clients to maintain healthy wells.

Below are basic descriptions of some of the problems that can afflict water wells as well as the means to treat them. Clients might appreciate having this information on hand, in case the need for it ever arises. Consider it your practicing preventive medicine, if you will.

Water Acidity

Acidity of water is measured on a scale from 0-14 called the pH scale. A pH level of 7 is neutral, and anything lower than this indicates acidic water. The lower the number, the more acidic it is.

Symptom: Corrosion of brass fixtures, copper plumbing, steel tanks and heating elements, resulting in blue-green stains on sinks and bathtubs.

Diagnosis: Check if there is corrosion of any of the areas highlighted in the symptoms or test the pH of the water by Litmus paper testing. Blue litmus paper turns red in the presence of an acid, while red litmus paper turns blue in the presence of a base. If the paper stays the same color or shows a base is present, then you don’t have this problem.

Cure: Neutralizing calcite filter or chemical feed system; using soda ash to remove acidity (raise pH), or to remove alkalinity (lower the pH) then use white vinegar or citric acid.

High Iron Content

Symptom:High iron content will begin to stain teeth at 0.3 parts per million (ppm). Brown-orange stains on tubs, sinks and laundry also may be present.

Cure: Water softeners (for low concentrations of Iron < 5.0 mg/l), or chlorination followed by activated carbon filtration (for any concentration).

Disease-causing Bacteria, Viruses or Protozoa

Because wells use ground water, the water generally is safe for drinking as the overlying soil acts like filter, removing disease-causing microorganisms.

Symptom: Because microbes generally are invisible to the naked eye, contaminated water supplies can easily go undetected. Therefore, it is vitally important that well water is tested on a regular basis (2 or 3 times a year) to ensure it is fit for consumption.

Depending on where you live, bacteriological testing of well water is done either by the local health laboratory or by a certified private laboratory. They will supply well owners with a clean, sterile sample bottle and the necessary instructions.

Prevention: To minimize the risk of contamination, well owners should:

  • Ensure that the well is sitting correctly, and that it is properly located, constructed and maintained. It should be drilled to the correct depth with an adequate layer of protective soil.

  • Check the well cap regularly to ensure that it is securely in place and watertight.

  • Check pumps and pipes on a regular basis.

  • Seal any joints, cracks or connections in the well casing.

  • Investigate any changes in water quality.

  • Direct surface drainage away from the well casing.

  • Disallow surface water to collect near the well.

  • Test for bacteriological presence regularly and for chemical contamination, if it is suspected.

  • Note any change in the land use of the surrounding area and initiate water testing.

  • Test well water at once if there is a change in its color, smell, taste or clarity.

Cure: UV Filters, Reverse Osmosis, Activated Carbon Filters, Distillers.

Did You Know?

Millions of private and public wells have never been tested for contaminations, nationwide survey was conducted by the EPA and released in 1990. Based on that survey, the EPA estimates that 10.4 percent of community wells and 4.2 percent of natural domestic wells have detectable levels of at least one pesticide.