Well water is vital to your household, and keeping the water safe for drinking is important for you and your family's health. Well water can contain a wide range of minerals, organic material and bacteria from the surrounding environment. Some of these materials are benign, but some can cause health issues. One form of bacteria to be concerned about is coliform bacteria.
Facts about coliform bacteria:
Some kinds of coliform bacteria are found in the guts of animals, but it also naturally occurs in the environment. Total coliform is usually considered harmless, but fecal coliform and E. coli can cause health issues and diseases in humans and animals. The latter forms of coliform can cause diarrhea, vomiting and dysentery. There are also other diseases associated with these types of bacteria.
How coliform bacteria gets into wells:
Coliform bacteria can enter through broken seals or holes in the well casing. It is also able to enter the system if the well is flooded. Sources of fecal coliform or E. coli may originate from runoff that contains livestock waste, or it can come from a leaking septic system. Wells that are built too close to pens and tanks are most at risk.
Coliform bacteria testing:
Homeowners should routinely test their well water at least once a year, preferably in the spring. You may also wish to test if you notice a funny taste or smell to your well water or if your well has been recently flooded. Testing should also include that for other contaminates such as nitrates and measuring pH levels. Tests will read back as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. If your test comes back as the latter, immediately stop drinking water from the well immediately or boil it before use.
Remedy for contaminated wells:
If your well has come back as contaminated, the source of the contamination must be located and repaired and the well disinfected. Disinfection involves using chemicals such as chlorine and calcium hypochlorite measured in a precise amounts based on the size of your well. Your county or state departments of public health can assist you with more information on disinfecting your well. Several private companies may be in your area that are qualified to disinfect wells.
Keeping your well clean and well maintained is the key to having healthy drinking water. Make sure to protect your well from contamination by fixing cracks and covers and protecting it from floods. Having your well water tested by professionals like Neilson Research Corporation regularly will help you be sure that your well system is working well and is safe.