Common Contaminants in Well Water and How to Remove Them

Common Contaminants in Well Water and How to Remove Them

Posted by Kenton Jones on Sep 28th 2021

About  15 million households in America depend upon water from private wells for drinking, cleaning, bathing, and cooking. While people who live within the limits of a city or a town, and have their water supplied by the municipality, know that their water is subject to strict environmental guidelines, the same is not true of private wells. So it is dependent upon the owners of these wells to make sure that their water is safe.

Water from a contaminated well can cause a variety of health problems, including gastrointestinal illnesses, neurological problems, even reproductive issues. They can be especially dangerous if you have an infant, a pregnant woman, or a senior citizen living in a home with contaminated water.

You can see that ensuring that your drinking water is contaminant-free is essential for your family’s health. Regular testing of your well water and the use of an appropriate filter are two of the most important things you can do to assure you that your family is getting the best possible water from your well.

Common contaminants  found in well water, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), include:

1. Radon

Radon is commonly found in water but can be hard to detect. It’s odorless, so you can’t smell it. It’s colorless, so you can’t see it. And it’s tasteless, so you can take a drink and not know if there was radon in it. Radon is a naturally occurring element, a radioactive gas found in soil and rocks.

The problem occurs when this naturally occurring gas is released into your home when you use water for things like showering or doing the dishes. A small amount of radon won’t hurt you immediately. But as it accumulates over time, so do its potential effects. Radon can cause lung cancer, for instance.

2. Arsenic

While the word arsenic conjures up images of poisoning victims in detective novels, arsenic is another naturally occurring substance. But when  arsenic is in your well water, it can be a serious problem.

Arsenic often  seeps into well water from agricultural and industrial pollution, including fertilizer runoff, or from natural deposits in the earth. Drinking water with arsenic in it can lead to serious health problems, including cancer, heart problems, and neurological issues. Not every well contains arsenic, but it’s important to test your well to see if it is present.

3. Nitrate

Safe in small doses, nitrate can be found in many foods. It’s another issue altogether, however, if you have high levels of nitrate in your drinking water. It can make you and your family very sick. Problems with nitrate normally start with agricultural runoff, such as fertilizers that can find their way into your well after heavy rainfall or a flood.

A private septic system or flooded sewer can also lead to problems with nitrate. Another factor that can lead to a high nitrate level is the geology of the land in your area. If geological structures lead to shallow wells, or if your location is prone to flooding,  nitrate contamination becomes more likely. High nitrate levels are particularly troublesome for pregnant women, infants, and older adults. They can lead to kidney problems and, once again, cancer.

4. Radionuclides

These potential well water contaminants are the radioactive forms of elements like radium and uranium. They can dissolve in water and  accumulate in wells.

Industrial processes like coal mining, nuclear power production, and uranium mining and milling are common sources of contamination. Radionuclides are also sometimes present in groundwater that has traveled through rock formations containing natural deposits of radioactive minerals.

Ingesting well water contaminated with radionuclides can increase the risk of cancer and cause kidney disease.

5. Fluoride

Fluoride is present in many aquifers, where it leaches from fluoride-containing rocks and sediments, and it can easily make its way into private wells. Small amounts of fluoride are beneficial for dental health because they prevent tooth decay. However, excessive amounts can harm developing teeth by causing  dental fluorosis, a condition characterized by damaged tooth enamel.

Parents of young children should be especially wary of potential contamination from fluoride in their drinking water. Children who ingest significant amounts of fluoride as their tooth enamel is forming, typically before they turn 8, may develop dental fluorosis, along with tooth pitting and discoloration.

Chronic fluoride ingestion during periods of bone growth may also lead to eventual skeletal fluorosis, a condition in which the bones and joints become stiff and painful.

6. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

This contaminant sounds a little intimidating, and it should be. It refers to industrial chemicals that easily change state through evaporation and are particularly harmful to humans. The VOCs  found most often in American wells, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS), are chloroform, perchloroethylene (PCE), and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE).

The location of your home is a key factor in whether you need to worry about VOC contamination in your well water. If you live close to a gas station or manufacturing plant, you need to be particularly vigilant about your well water. MTBE can be found in gasoline, but due to environmental health concerns, its use has declined since 2005. It’s important to check for VOCs regularly, particularly if you live close to the structures mentioned above.

7. Synthetic Organic Contaminants (SOCs)

Unlike VOCs, which  derive from naturally occurring hydrocarbons like petroleum, SOCs are entirely human-made. Examples include chlordane, glyphosate, and methoxychlor, all pesticides or compounds used in pesticides, as well as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a group of oily compounds once widely used in electrical equipment. They may make their way into groundwater and well water through agricultural and industrial runoff.

Adverse health outcomes associated with ingesting SOCs from well water include elevated cancer risks, damage to the nervous system and kidneys, and developmental delays in children.

8. Microbial Contamination

While some microbes found in water can be harmless, some bacteria can be extremely harmful to humans. E. coli, crypto, and giardia are three of these  more harmful kinds of microbes. They usually are found more often in surface waters like rivers or lakes. But they make their way into wells when there are heavy rainfalls or floods or if you do not properly maintain your well. Once bacteria and other microbes make their way into your well, they live there for a long time, even if the water is extremely cold.

Another form of bacteria that private well owners should be concerned about is fecal chloroform bacteria. If this is found present in your well water, it could be a sign of problems with your septic system. In a survey conducted by the USGS, about 20 percent of private wells sampled across the country contained at least one form of bacteria that could be harmful to human health.

9. Additional Contaminants

Additional contaminants that can be found in well water include copper, hepatitis A, lead, norovirus, rotavirus, and salmonella.

When and Why Should I Get My Wells Checked?

You should  check your well every spring for cleanliness, mechanical issues, and the presence of contaminants. More than a few problems with contaminants are caused by poorly maintained systems or ones that have grown old and whose components are failing. You should also test your well in the following circumstances:

  • There are reports of other problems with other wells in your area.

  • There has been extremely heavy rainfall, a flood or some other disturbance to the land in your area, such as new construction.

  • You live near a waste disposal site.

  • You discover you have had problems with your septic system. If it is anywhere near your well, it’s a good idea to check to see if any fecal material has seeped into the well.

  • Any part of your well system has been repaired or replaced.

  • If you work with chemicals on your property, keep the water hose outside of any mixing container. If you place it inside the container, it may be possible that chemicals can be siphoned into a household water system.

  • Make sure that the cover or cap for the well is intact. Remember, the top of your well should be at least a foot above ground level.

  • Most wells last about 20 years. When your well has reached the end of its serviceable life, make sure you contact a certified well driller and pump installer to properly close the existing well and drill a new one.

Your state’s, your municipality’s or your county’s environmental or health departments will often do tests for a series of contaminants. These departments will also have a list of licensed laboratories that can test your well water for a variety of contaminants.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also  maintains a database of certified laboratories that can test for well water contaminants.

It’s also a good idea to get your well tested if you are in the process of selling your home and land. If the buyer later discovers that the well is contaminated or not properly maintained, it could put the sale in jeopardy. Many states require testing before the sale of a property with a private well can go forward.

When and Why Should I Test My Water?

The CDC recommends that you test your well water at least once a year. This includes testing the water both from your tap and from the source. If you have a shallow well, you should probably test your water seasonally, especially if you live in an area with heavy rainfall, floods, or  a great deal of agricultural activity. Your local health department can help you test your drinking water. Also, there are many self-testing kits now available either in retail outlets or online.

Testing your water allows you to deal with any problems that may exist in your water supply. Whether your well water is to be used by humans, by livestock or for watering plants, testing yearly or more frequently will help you make the right decisions about your well water and how to fix it if there are any problems.

It is important to regularly test your well water because:

  • It helps you identify any problems.

  • It is the best way to ensure that humans and animals can use your water.

  • It allows you to see how your water supply has changed over time. Are there more contaminants than there used to be? Are there fewer? What could be the reasons for either situation?

  • It shows you how effective your current water treatment regimen is.

  • If you sell your house and property, being able to show a potential buyer the records of your yearly well testing to assure them that the well is in good shape will greatly assist the sale of your property. On the other hand, if you’re buying a property that includes a private well, you will want to see the yearly records of water tests. If the current owner has not done regular tests of the water quality, make sure you carry one out before you sign the final contract.

When testing your well water, you need to  check for several important factors:

  • Basic potability: This is to check if your water meets minimum levels. This test will look for nitrates, sodium, chloride, iron, total dissolved solids, how hard your water is, and its pH levels.

  • Coliform bacteria: This test looks for microorganisms that can be potentially harmful to humans.

  • Nitrate: As we mentioned above, nitrate can be a particular problem in an area with a lot of agricultural activity. High concentrations of nitrate can be unhealthy for infants or pregnant women.

  • Other ions: You look for ions not necessarily because they’re bad for your health but because they are bad for your water. Chloride, sulfate, magnesium, and other ions make your water taste bad and smell bad.

  • Sulfate: If there is too much sulfate in your water, you will have digestive problems, gastrointestinal discomfort, and diarrhea.

  • Fluoride: While fluoride is good for your teeth in small amounts, too much of it may actually be bad for your teeth.

  • Dissolved solids: This checks for the total amount of inorganic substances that can be found in your well water. If you find that you don’t enjoy drinking your well water, it could be because there’s a high level of dissolved solids.

How to Remove Contaminants From Well Water

It’s always a good idea to test your well water so you know if you have any problems. But another excellent way to protect your family is to use a filter. And the best type of filter is a drinking water system like the kind you can find from Multipure:

  • The Multipure Aqualuxe is a point-of-use system that provides filtration of the water coming from your kitchen faucet, so your family will enjoy drinking water free from many aesthetic and health-related contaminants. You can install it under your sink or on your countertop. The Aqualuxe is certified to remove microorganisms like bacteria and viruses from your water, protecting your family's health.

  • Anyone who has used a water filter on a kitchen sink knows that one of the most significant problems is a loss of pressure. But Multipure’s system of innovative technology and design means you’ll still have the water pressure you want along with the filtration that you need.

  • The latest PureBlock carbon block water filter will also allow you to treat contaminants other than microorganisms, such as arsenic, asbestos, lead and mercury, and chloramine. Chloramine can also damage your home’s plumbing and, in some cases, lead to additional microbial growth. Chloramine is also toxic to fish and any water-based reptiles.

  • The Aqualuxe has electronic sensors and Wi-Fi capabilities in addition to its sophisticated water filtration capabilities, so you'll always know how your system is performing and be able to respond quickly to maintenance needs.

Look to Multipure for a Drinking Water Filtration System

Certified performance matters. At Multipure, we pride ourselves on providing home drinking water systems that reduce common contaminants to keep your household safe. Check out  Multipure's NSF certifications to learn more about the rigorous examination and testing all our products undergo, or peruse the complete list of contaminants the Aqualuxe can address.

Multipure has been in business since 1970 to help Americans find clean drinking water. Our founders and our company believe that all Americans should have affordable access to the best drinking water — water that is clean, delicious, and free of contaminants. Water that you feel comfortable serving to your family, your pets, and your friends.

You can  check our prices, order online, even join  our online social community.

Or call us toll-free at 1-800-622-9208. We are glad to get your questions or comments.