Private Well Water


It is estimated that more than 13 million households rely on private well water for drinking water in the United States (US Census American Housing Survey 2017). The EPA does not regulate private wells nor does it provide recommended criteria or standards for individual wells.

While the EPA does offer information regarding the importance of testing private well water and guidance on technologies that may be used to treat or remove any contaminants, private well owners are responsible for the safety of their water.

It’s important to test your private well annually for:

  • Total coliform bacteria
  • Nitrates
  • Total dissolved solids
  • PH levels

If you suspect the presence of other contaminants, you should test for those also. You can also contact your local health department to find out what substances may be common in your area’s groundwater.

You may want to test more frequently if small children or elderly adults live in your house or if someone in your house is pregnant or nursing. These segments of the population are often more vulnerable to pollutants than others.

You should also test your private well immediately if:

  • There are known problems with ground water or drinking water in your area.
  • Conditions near your well have changed significantly (i.e. flooding, land disturbances, and new construction or industrial activity).
  • You replace or repair any part of your well system.
  • You notice a change in your water quality (i.e. odor, color, taste).

In addition, well owners should also determine if the ground water you rely on for household use is under direct influence from surface water. Ground water under the direct influence of surface water is susceptible to contamination from activities on the surface. Direct influence is determined on a site by site basis under state program criteria.


Identifying reasons to test your water

The chart below lists common conditions or nearby activities that well owners should be aware of and the substance(s) that you should consider testing for to ensure your well is safe. Not all of the substances listed pose an immediate or long-term health problem, some impact quality of life only such as appearance, taste, and odor.

Conditions or Nearby Activities:

Test For:


Recurring gastro-intestinal illness

Coliform bacteria


Household plumbing or service lines that contain lead

pH, lead, copper


Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich

Radon


Corrosion of pipes, plumbing

Corrosion, pH, lead


Nearby areas of intensive agriculture

Nitrate, nitrite, pesticides, coliform bacteria


Coal or other mining operations nearby

Metals, pH, corrosion


Gas drilling operations nearby

Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium


Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station or dry-cleaning operation nearby

Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals


Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks

Volatile organic compounds


Objectionable taste or smell

Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals


Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry

Iron, copper, manganese


Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby

Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium


Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather

Hardness


Rapid wear of water treatment equipment

pH, corrosion


Water softener needed to treat hardness

Manganese, iron


Water appears cloudy, frothy or colored

Color, detergents


If you would like a free water test to see if your well water could use improvement, please call 509-381-7818 or schedule your FREE in-home water test here.

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