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Partner Blog

Information of use to those who serve private well owners.

Pledging 2 Test in Galena, IL

This past March, the Private Well Class celebrated the 2016 National Groundwater Awareness Week with the Pledge 2 Test campaign. Well owners were invited to pledge to submit a water sample for testing to a lab in their area. One Pledge to Test Campaign participant was randomly selected to be reimbursed for the cost of testing the private well water at their residence, up to $200.

The randomly selected winner was Liz H. from Galena, IL. Liz and her family had purchased a new home in the country and pledged to test her water in our campaign. We interviewed Liz to find out what motivated her to want to test her water and what her experience was like. Liz had her well water tested at Lyons Lab in Stockton, IL.


Q:  How did you hear about the Pledge 2 Test campaign from The Private Well Class?

LH: Since we were looking at moving to the country and having our own well, I was a bit nervous about the water and run off that so many people talk about. I think it’s very important to have good drinking water since we have a six year old and we drink on average 5 gallons a week through our water cooler, so I signed up for the free well water class that I got through my realtor. We really never worried about it before since we have always lived in town or had city water.


Q:  What made you interested in testing your private well water?

LH: I want to know what we are drinking and I want to know if our family will have long lasting health risks with side effects down the road from drinking poor quality water. Good clean water seems to be a hot topic these days and it’s not all accurate.


Q:  What was the most challenging thing about collecting the sample/getting the test bottles?

LH: Since the lab is over a half hour away from where we live in the opposite direction of where we travel, it was hard getting to the lab before they closed. I tried for several weeks to get off work in time to make it over to Lyon’s lab but was unsuccessful. Finally I decided to call and see if they could send me the kit. They are very accommodating and sent the kit right away, it arrived in two days.


Q:  What was one thing about taking a sample that surprised you?

LH: The instructions were very easy to follow and the collection process was simple. It literally took me less than five minutes from start to finish after I read through the instructions twice.


Q:  Once you receive the results, do you think that there is there anything that you will change? Like adding a filtration system, etc.?

LH: Depending on what the results reveal, we will be making changes to whatever needs to be done. We have already started using a PUR system on our kitchen sink since that is where we get out tap water from. We also fill our five gallon water cooler from this same tap source. I am getting anxious to find out the results. The water has a pretty plain, good taste when it's cold. I don’t drink room temperature water so not sure if the taste is different.


Liz’s results for nitrate/nitrogen, arsenic, iron, lead, coliform, and E. coli were either absent or were well below the level needed for safe consumption as outlined by the U.S. EPA. 

Her water showed an elevated number of iron bacteria colonies. Iron bacteria are organisms which feed on the iron in a well. They are not considered a health risk, but as the colony grows, it may develop into a film, or biofilm, which will foul and plug pipes, pumps, and water treatment devices. An objectionable odor may also be produced. Bacteria (including iron bacteria) often are introduced into a well during the drilling process or when performing repair on a well or pump. Iron bacteria specifically, can be a natural part of a groundwater system. Which if were the case here, would mean that they could likely come back even if a single treatment were to eliminate them initially. Treatment typically involves disinfection with chlorine. Complete elimination may not be possible and the well may require repeated or periodic chlorination.

Some final thoughts from Liz: “I am so happy with the results. I am so glad to have won this and will be testing for nitrates every year between April and October as Lyons Lab has indicated. I am a bit smarter as to well water in the country now.”

FAQ: "What Should I Sample For?"

Question

How often should I sample my well, and what should I sample for?

Answer

Testing your water regularly is probably the most important thing you can do to protect you and your family’s health.  In most cases, groundwater is completely safe to drink, but sometimes there are naturally occurring contaminants in groundwater, and many older wells do not properly protect from possible surface contamination and can lead to well contamination.  
  

What to sample for can vary based on well depth, known naturally occurring contaminants, and local concerns.  Including the list of things we recommend, you should contact your local health agency and ask them what they suggest. It might also be helpful to contact your local cooperative extension office or driller to ask if they know of any concerns in your area. In some states, one or more state agencies might have information on water quality that will be helpful.  Below are two examples. In Massachusetts, you can type in your address, and the system will let you know if you are at risk for Arsenic or Uranium (Figure 1), and in Rhode Island, the middle of the state has a beryllium issue (Figure 2). Investigate, so you aren’t surprised later.  We have had more than one well owner contact us, upset that they didn’t know there was an issue in their area, like arsenic, until after they purchased their home.

    

Fig 1. From the Massachusetts DEP website

 
 
From the Rhode Island Dept of Health (large pink splotch in the middle of the state)

We recommend sampling for nitrate and coliform bacteria annually. These constituents are common and provide an indicator that there is likely a pathway into your well from or near the surface. In some cases they can indicate contamination from your septic system or from livestock, which should not happen if your well is properly located and constructed.  The point of sampling annually for these two relatively inexpensive constituents is they will point out an immediate problem that should be dealt with. If you do have coliform bacteria in your well, you should not drink it until disinfected, and you should also test for E. coli as a follow up. Contact your local or state health agency, and they can give you follow up recommendations.

We also suggest sampling for the following constituents once every 3 -5 years.  Again, we recommend you contact your local health agency for advice and additional information.  The goals we all share are safeguarding public health and source water protection. Sampling for the constituents below will give a water quality professional a lot of valuable information about your well water, including its corrosiveness and other information needed to make treatment decisions.
 
Arsenic Fluoride
Iron Sulfate
Lead Hardness
Manganese pH
Chloride Turbidity
Total Dissolved Solids Copper (if copper piping)
Zinc and Cadmium (if galvanized piping in home or well)