Around 15 million homes receive their water from a private well with no EPA oversight and full responsibility for the water quality. This can be liberating, but this freedom presents a challenge to ensure that the water is clean and safe to use. A recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found contaminants in 23% of private wells tested. To put this into perspective, approximately 7 million Americans fall sick due to contact with waterborne diseases annually according to the CDC. Many of these contaminants cannot be detected with our senses, and local conditions can change the makeup of the water. We recommend annual water testing for your private well and here are five contaminants that you need to know about.

1.  Iron and Manganese

These are naturally occurring contaminants in groundwater supplies, but larger deposits of shale, coal, and limestone can increase their presence dramatically. When groundwater has elevated levels of iron and manganese, the water may taste metallic, and it can stain laundry, pipes, fixtures, and other surfaces with a reddish/brown color.

2.  Copper

Again, copper is naturally occurring, but if your water has a blue/green color, you may have elevated levels present in your well water. But, the cause may also be acidic water with a low pH level that’s corroding your copper plumbing pipes. Professional well water testing can reveal the cause and help you to make informed decisions to fix the problem.

3.  Hydrogen Sulfide

If your water has a “rotten egg” odor, the cause could be hydrogen sulfide gas that’s trapped inside the water. High levels of sulfur in the ground can affect the local groundwater supplies. Other possible sources can be marshland areas or local agricultural activity where manure pits can generate significant quantities of sulfides. Aside from the terrible smell, sulfides are bad for your plumbing system because they are corrosive. Sulfides can also cause black stains in areas where you tend to use more water.

4.  Calcium and Magnesium

A higher than normal mineral count can usually be traced back to bedrock. As the water passes through the rock, it dissolves limestone and other materials it encounters. Water is an excellent solvents and the properties of materials it dissolves are added to its makeup. Although these minerals don’t represent a threat to health, they can cause strange tastes, skin irritation, soap scum, dry hair, and damage to your water using appliances.

5.  Nitrates

These are chemicals that combine with compounds to create rich plant food. Many fertilizers contain nitrates, and excess amounts can leach into the groundwater. This is pretty common after heavy rainfall in areas where agricultural activity takes place. This is because nitrates don’t bond with soil well, and they tend to be flushed away during flooding. Nitrates can cause a number of health issues, but they are especially dangerous for babies under the age of 6 months old.

There are more possible sources of contamination for private wells, such as microorganisms, sodium chloride, heavy metals, and others. Testing for these contaminants with a DIY kit is less accurate, and you need to make informed decisions. If you want to learn more about professional well testing, contact your local water treatment specialist today.

By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.