Many people are surprised to learn that there is no federal oversight of water from wells, thus well water and its safety in terms of the risks it poses is a matter that should be handled by the owner of the well. Drinking well water does come with a unique set of risks and since you do not have the testing that is regularly done with municipal sources, you will have to test your own well water to make sure there are no significant risks to drinking well water from your property.

Well Water Risks #1 : Naturally-Occurring Contaminants in Your Well

When we think about risks of drinking well water, many of those that come to mind probably have to do with human waste and the byproducts of industry and farming. However, there are a significant number of pollutants that can create risks to drinking well water and that can, for the most part, be easily detected through well water testing. Some of the naturally-occurring risks to drinking well water you might encounter include bacteria that are indigenous to the area of your well and the aquifer itself. Some of the harmful bacteria in well water can also come about as a result of flooding, especially if your well is not incredibly deep. If you experience flooding, you should always have your well water tested shortly afterwards to ensure that no bacteria are present in your well water. The forms of bacteria most commonly found in well water are those that can cause rather severe intestinal trouble and symptoms consistent with stomach flu. If you or anyone in your family seems especially prone to stomach problems that are frequent, make sure to test your water.

Other forms of natural contamination of well water come from the soil, rocks, and geographical features indigenous to your area. Many rocks, due to natural processes, break down and release toxic compounds and low-level radiation into the earth and soil. A harmful gas known as radon is released during this natural process and can contribute to the toxicity and related risks to drinking well water from a well in such an area. There is little that can be done about this process and oftentimes, if the case is bad enough with radiation and radon levels, a well may no longer be used. In addition to this more dangerous form of well water contamination is the fact that most wells pick up debris from rocks, thus the typical drinker of well water ingests more metal compounds than those drinking municipal supplies. Iron, calcium, and lead are all compounds you will consume although in most cases, the amounts, even when totaled over the course of a lifetime of drinking well water, are not enough to amount to any serious harm and do not pose major risks to your well water safety.

Well Water Risks #2 : Human-Caused Risks to Drinking Well Water

The most significant risks to drinking well water are those that are posed by human activity, even that which occurs several miles from your home or private well. The byproducts of industry can quickly contribute to the contamination of groundwater supplies and some well water testing in certain areas has revealed large amounts of toxic chemicals that, over the years, have seeped from dump and other industrial waste sites into what those who use well water drink daily. These include harmful, and even deadly chemicals such as mercury and lead and the effects of these chemicals in your well water supplies could have a significant impact on the health of your family. Again, proper and frequent testing of your well water is critical, especially if you live in an area where there are several industries; even if those places of industry are ten or twenty miles from your private well and especially if you live in a valley or near a flowing water source.

Another human activity that contributes to risks in well water is that of the farming industry. The huge amount of waste produced by animals, especially if there are many of them concentrated in a small area, as well as the toxic pesticides used on the farms themselves often seep into the groundwater. If you live near a farm, especially if the farm is one that is very large and animal wastes are a problem, you are absolutely a candidate for frequent testing of your well water.

While there is little that can be done about the many risks to drinking well water that are posed by natural events such as the occurrence of bacteria and geological forces, there are many things industries, farms, and businesses can do about contaminating the groundwater supplies in their area. If you are someone who uses well water, attend city council meetings and make sure that industry and local farms are aware of what they might be doing to the groundwater and contact the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) if you suspect that activities are posing risks to well water supplies.

In short, no matter where your private well is located and whether or not you live far away from or very nearby sites of industry or agricultural production, you should have your well tested. There are consultants who can come and do it for you and there are also a large number of well water testing kits on the market that can provide you with accurate results with relatively little effort. To effectively minimize risks to drinking well water from your own private well, a proactive approach is key.

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