In many parts of the United States, well water remains the primary source of drinking water supply. About 15% of Americans, or over 43 million people, get their drinking water from domestic wells.
Older generations may believe private well water is always clean and ready for consumption. But is drinking well water safe? Is well water fit for consumption? No, not always. It varies in a wide range of circumstances.
Well water comes from ground water, which has become more contaminated in recent decades due to the accelerated growth of industry, the effects of weather, and surface activity.
Long-term consumption of private well water as drinking water can pose severe health problems and may even be cancer-causing. Let’s find out more about if it’s okay to consume untreated well water.
How do I know if my drinking water from the well is safe?
Here are some water quality indicators that your well water may not be safe to drink if you’re having trouble determining whether it is:
- Scale build-up, or deposits of off-white chalk in the water.
- Water that is cloudy or murky when it exits the faucet.
- Green stains on your sinks and faucets (these could be signs of acid pollutants, such as copper, zinc, and iron).
- Dishwasher, clothing, and sink stains that are red or brown (these could indicate unusually high iron levels in the water).
- A chemical taste in water or a strange salty flavor in the water (this could denote a high sodium or chloride concentration).
- A fragrance that reminds you of laundry detergent (this could suggest that there are harmful water contaminants in your septic tanks).
- A smell like rotten eggs in the water (this could be a sign that the well contains sulfur bacteria or hydrogen sulfide gas).
Potential Well Water Problems-Local Health Department
Both naturally occurring chemicals and artificial sources can contaminate wells. Here are some common pollutants, water sources, and serious health problems related to them.
- Private wells may become contaminated by water run-off from rainfall or snowmelt. People who drink water contaminated with germs may develop stomach infections and diseases. A source may have water contamination by waste leakage from septic leach fields and underground storage tanks.
- Methemoglobinemia, sometimes known as “blue baby syndrome,” can be an outcome after drinking water with high amounts of nitrate. These chemicals reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Breathing difficulty and skin blueness are symptoms. Infants under six months old are prone to severe health problems.
- Heavy metals can pollute wells through ground water movement, surface water seepage, and run-off. High heavy metal intake puts a person at risk for cancer, anemia, and intestine, liver, and kidney damage. Arsenic, lead, antimony, chromium, cadmium, copper, selenium, and many other substances are examples of heavy metals.
- Many household items contain volatile organic compounds widely utilized in business and agriculture. Through waste disposal, spills, and surface water run-off, organic chemicals can get into groundwater and contaminate private wells. People who eat large amounts of organic compounds may experience kidney, liver, circulatory, neurological, and reproductive system damage.
- Naturally occurring minerals like uranium and radium have radioactive versions called radionuclides. They can be discharged into the environment and are dangerous to people. Research states that ingesting contaminated water can affect the kidneys and raise cancer risk.
- Fluoride intake that is too high can lead to skeletal fluorosis, characterized by joint and bone pain and tenderness. Dental fluorosis can result from excessive fluoride ingestion during the development of tooth enamel. Many underground aquifers contain fluoride, which is also present in some private wells.
Health Effects Related to Common Well Water Problems
Depending on the cause of the poor water quality, there are different human health issues for well water.
- There are health concerns associated with nitrates, arsenic, and coliform bacteria, among other things. Several household members may have health effects from these well water issues and toxins.
- High quantities of toxic metals can cause acute and long-term intoxication and harm the liver, kidneys, and intestines when consumed. These poisonous pollutants may contribute to two more conditions: cancer and anemia.
- Other microbes may also be the source of infections, gastrointestinal illness, and digestive disorders.
Water testing is necessary so that you can spot problems before they have an impact on your health.
Does well water need to be filtered to remove harmful bacteria?
Rust or heavy metals and other dangerous microbes, residues, and pollution can all be present in well water. It is advisable to check the purity of your water at a reputable institution first. Often companies use water filters to clean the well water supply.
Filtration of the well water is essential if the test results reveal the presence of dangerous germs or viruses. Some water purification processes use reverse osmosis systems to remove unwanted particles for safe drinking.
Testing Drinking Water Quality
Testing the water to ensure it’s safe to drink is crucial. You can either do the water testing yourself or pay a well-water professional.
Ordering a DIY home water test kit is the first step if you intend to test your drinking water supply. The price might vary depending on what you want to test for, and you can find them on any online website.
You can also test your water quality by contacting your local health department and asking them how to obtain a sample of water to submit to a lab for analysis. You must choose the appropriate test intensity level based on the city and state circumstances. Moreover, you can regularly test the water to trace minerals present in it.
How and when to treat your well water?
Well water can be perfectly healthy to consume. However, drinking it can be dangerous if it contains harmful bacteria and other toxic substances. Therefore, it becomes essential to test and potentially treat before consuming well water. Keep reading to find different types of well water treatment.
Types of well water treatment
There are numerous treatment alternatives if your well water is contaminated. Some people decide to add flavors to their well water by treating it. Others take different steps to protect their health and ensure they drink safe water from the well. Here are some types of well water treatment.
A Filtration System
You can filter water to rid your drinking water of pollutants and toxins. It must pass these tests to be safe to drink.
Water filters can take many forms, including an under-sink unit, countertop filter, water filters that attach to the faucet, and more. Arguably the best way to go through is a whole house water filtration system.
Boiling is a step in the distillation process that removes impurities from water. There are numerous methods for distilling well water. It is achievable using small pebbles, sand, charcoal, and fabric.
The well water can be boiled for five minutes. This will get rid of all the bacteria inside it. However, the sediments and other components in the well water cannot be removed by boiling.
You can use either a chemical or physical procedure to disinfect. The harmful germs are killed or rendered inactive at this point. Many towns employ this procedure to purify their water sources. The most often used chemical disinfectants are chlorine, chlorine dioxide, and ozone. Nowadays, people also can use physical disinfectants. They are ultraviolet light, electronic radiation, and heat.
A water softener can lessen the number of minerals or the hardness of the water. Potassium or sodium ions take the place of calcium and magnesium ions to soften the water. In addition to convenience, using a water softener has other advantages. It has a positive impact on family finances and improves family health.
Full chlorination can destroy microorganisms found in well water and aquifers. The well drillers always use this technique. They apply this to persistent bacteria and other contaminants.
Additionally, this technique is applied to flood-affected waterways. Experts frequently do the entire chlorination process. But you can also carry it out on your own.
Is well water safer than tap water?
Since well water doesn’t include additional chemicals like fluoride, chlorine and other potentially harmful contaminants in tap water, filtered well water can be safer.
Can You Boil Well Water for Drinking?
Boiling is the most reliable method to remove parasites, viruses, and other bacteria from well water. Heat the water to a full, swirling boil for at least 1 minute before using it. You can then place the boiled water in the refrigerator in a clean, covered container for up to 72 hours.
The Bottom Line
In general, well water is a reliable source of water. Most private water wells are not covered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That is why it often it should first pass through whole house water filtration systems to ensure that the well water is safe for consumption.
Ultimately, treating your well water is a crucial way to safeguard you and your family from dangerous chemicals or contaminates that pose a risk to their health.