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Is Well Water Safe to Drink?

Have you been taking a closer look at your drinking water? If you’re one of the 43 million Americans using well water, you might be wondering what’s really in your glass.1 From visible particles to discolorations to unpleasant smells, several factors might bring you to ask, “Is well water safe to drink?”

The short answer: maybe.

Unfortunately, there are too many considerations to make a general statement about the safety of well water. Every well is different. That said, this article will dive into the details when it comes to contaminants, risk factors, and well water conditioning systems and solutions, so you’ll be able to answer the question for yourself.

Not only will you have a clear picture of well water safety and some facts about drinking water from the well, but you’ll also find the information to guarantee your next glass is clear, clean, and risk-free.

Private Wells vs Municipal Water

Those living in highly populated metropolitan areas typically rely on municipal water treatment facilities. These facilities are monitored and regulated by public officials to make certain the water quality meets the required criteria for public safety and consumption.

This regulation is not extended to those using private wells. There is no EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) oversight when it comes to the health and safety risks of private wells—ultimately, the responsibility falls squarely on the property owner to make sure their well is providing safe water.

That means it’s your responsibility to:

  • Test your water for contaminants
  • Maintain the structural integrity of your well
  • Implement your own filtration system

Water Testing

The best way to get acquainted with what’s in your water is through water testing. While there are at-home kits available, it’s often best to contact a professional.

Local, state, and federal employees are trained and equipped with the best scientific equipment for taking accurate measurements and readings of what’s in your water.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends well-owners conduct a water test at least once a year.2 They can also provide a list of certified labs capable of doing the work necessary to assure your safety. Often it’s as easy as mailing a few small bottles of tap water.

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High-Risk Contaminants

Before you can start taking the steps toward cleaner, safer water, you need to know what you’re up against. Anything that isn’t H20 is a water contaminant, and many contaminants have the potential for health issues.

It’s important to note that not all contamination poses an immediate danger to your health. Some are harmless, though they may have the side-effect of bringing an unpleasant taste or smell to your water.

High-risk contaminants that pose serious health risks can be broken down most easily into two broad categories: germs and chemicals.

Germs

Germs are small but mighty. They have the potential for major health risks. While there’s no way to completely avoid these pesky microorganisms, there are a few variations that can cause problems when they enter your drinking water. 

Hazardous germs include:

  • E. coli – A common coliform bacteria capable of releasing a powerful toxin. While this bacteria lives in the intestines of healthy cows and other animals, when it comes in contact with humans, it’s capable of causing several illnesses.
  • Shigella – A bacteria capable of causing an infection (known as shigellosis). Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. While it’s not typically life-threatening, some people may require antibiotics if they have any underlying health conditions.
  • Hepatitis A – This virus can cause a very serious liver infection resulting in fatigue, jaundice, and stomach pain. Not only is this virus dangerous, but it’s also highly contagious, even in microscopic amounts.
  • Salmonella – While most people think of Salmonella bacteria as stemming from contaminated food, it’s also possible to come in contact with the bacteria from contaminated groundwater. Stomach-related symptoms and fever are common when suffering from an infection related to Salmonella.
  • Norovirus – Another highly contagious virus with flu-like symptoms, Noroviruses are the most frequent cause of foodborne illness. As well, outbreaks of noroviruses are common because it is so easily spread from one infected person to another.

While it’s not pleasant to even think about the possibility of any of these germs in your drinking water, it’s worthwhile to note that all of these bacterial contaminants can be safely removed from your water. Through yearly testing and proper filtration, these germs won’t stand a chance.

Chemicals

As opposed to the infectious organic matter of germs, these chemicals are not alive, and you can’t spread any illnesses simply by ingesting them. That said, they can still pose a health risk if they show up in your drinking water.

The serious chemicals to watch out for include:

  • Nitrate and Nitrite – This is a chemical compound that has the potential to cause blood problems.
  • Arsenic – While you may be familiar with arsenic as a common poison, it has, on occasion, found its way into groundwater sources. Arsenic is highly toxic.
  • Lead – Often lead contamination is caused by water with high acidity dissolving the metal pipes that contain it.
  • Uranium – There have been links to elevated uranium in drinking water leading to kidney problems. While this element is naturally occurring, found in rocks deep within the earth, it can cause damage over time when levels exceed the small amount that your body can absorb.

Keep these chemicals in mind as you move through the article. They’re the red flags that you can catch early to prevent any potential damage to your health. 

Low-Risk Contaminants

It’s not all gloomy. What’s in your water isn’t always life-or-death.

As noted above, not all contaminants are harmful, though that doesn’t mean you necessarily want them in your water. Odd tastes and smells can ruin the taste of your water and leave freshly laundered clothes with a distressing smell.

The following are some of the most common contaminants that won’t harm your health but might harm your enjoyment when it comes to your drinking water.

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Heavy metals

You might notice filmy build-ups, drier skin, an itchy scalp, and other minor discomforts associated with these contaminants. It may be worth it to make an investment in filtering out these materials as well as the truly toxic ones, for an overall excellent water experience.

Causes of Contamination

Where does it come from? Groundwater contamination can stem from any of the water source but the most common include:

  • Agriculture – Whether you’re involved in agriculture directly or simply in the vicinity of a farm, your hard water can be at risk from fertilizer, animal waste, pesticide, and any number of irrigation and disposal systems.
  • Commercial and Industrial – Many commercial businesses deal in dangerous and volatile chemicals that can drain into the soil and then into your well water. That includes paints, cleaning fluids, oil products, and waste from landfills. 
  • Residential – The septic system and sewer lines are common causes of water contamination. When a residential septic system begins leaking into the ground that can mean serious health risks from the resulting harmful bacteria. As well, residential fuel tanks can cause contamination if not sealed correctly.

Water is a powerful solvent. That means it can dissolve and absorb most substances that it comes in contact with—leading to bacterial contamination. 

You should also keep in mind that one of the quickest ways to water contamination is through a damaged well. If cracks or ruptures have occurred in your water system, any number of water contaminants might begin seeping into your water. If you’re dealing with a damaged well, you may need to do some structure maintenance before your water is drinkable.

Filtration Solutions

With the full knowledge of what you’re looking at regarding well water safety and bacterial contamination, it’s time to start seeking out solutions.

Water filtration is a broad and diverse field, but the most basic information regarding filtration systems can start pushing you toward understanding what you need to remedy your specific water situation.

  • Activated charcoal – Perhaps the filtration method you’re most familiar with, activated charcoal can remove sediments, pesticides, and other chemicals. Loose granules of carbon may work to filter larger particles, but smaller organisms are typically unaffected by this filtration system.
  • Water softening systems – Most notable for their ability to remove magnesium, calcium, and other metals, a water softener can provide a more palatable drinking experience while removing dangerous chemicals.
  • Reverse osmosis – The most trusted filtration system when it comes to filtering out microscopic organic materials. Reverse osmosis involves a semi-permeable membrane that allows only water molecules to pass through, leaving behind water contaminants and providing remarkably clean water.

These broad categories of filtration are a perfect jumping-off point when looking for a way to ensure you’re drinking water is clean and safe. We just have one more piece of advice to consider as you work to make your drinking water goals a reality.

Never Stress About Safety with Rayne Water

Understanding contamination and filtration are the pillars of well water safety. That said, for something as essential as water, it might be helpful to consult with someone with experience and expertise, before trying to solve your issues on your own.

That’s where we come in.

With nearly 100 years of experience solving residential and commercial water issues, we’d like to think of ourselves as the foremost experts in water safety. Whatever your needs and your budget, we have a specialized water filtration solution to make your water as pure as possible. 

Let our expert team at Rayne Water bring you better, cleaner water every day.

 

Sources: 

  1. LHSFNA. How safe is your well water. https://www.lhsfna.org/index.cfm/lifelines/july-2016/how-safe-is-your-well-water/ 
  2. CDC. Drinking water frequently asked questions (FAQs). https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/drinking-water-faq.html 
  3. CDC. Groundwater awareness week. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/groundwater-awareness-week.html 
  4. EPA. Is your well water safe to drink.
  5. https://www3.epa.gov/region1/eco/drinkwater/pdfs/ME-Private-Well-Testing-Brochure.pdf 
  6. EPA. Potential well water contaminants and their impacts.
  7. https://www.epa.gov/privatewells/potential-well-water-contaminants-and-their-impacts