As you likely know, drinking water can expose people to a variety of harmful pathogens and pollutants. While public water systems use proactive steps such as water treatment and monitoring to protect us from contaminants in our water, private wells do not receive the same treatment. If you are the owner of a private well that supplies drinking water to your home, you are directly responsible for protecting your well water. In order to ensure that your well water is free of harmful toxins that could put you at risk, you have to be aware of your well’s potential for contamination as well as the possible health effects those potential contaminants can have.
Today, Office H2O will be discussing five toxins – or contaminants – to test for if you have well water. Wells tend to become contaminated in numerous ways, and a myriad of toxins can seep into your well water. For this reason, you should test for toxins regularly. This is the best way to work proactively to keep your well water clean, fresh, and ready to drink.
The first contaminant that you should test your well water for is bacteria. More specifically, total coliform bacteria is one of the first tests that owners of private wells should have done. According to the CDC, coliform bacteria are microbes that are found in warm-blooded animals’ digestive systems, on plants, in surface water, and in soil. A positive coliform bacteria test is a good indicator that the well in question is vulnerable to contaminants at the surface which are seeping into the aquifer. While coliform bacteria themselves aren’t necessarily harmful, they could be an indication that disease-causing pathogens have found their way into the well water. For this reason, it is best practice to do an E. coli test at the same time when doing a coliform bacteria test.
Arsenic, a naturally occurring element in both rocks and soil, can be found in groundwater. There are a slew of health issues associated with the consumption of arsenic, including problems with the digestive, respiratory, and nervous systems. Arsenic has also been known to have a negative impact on both the liver and skin. Milder effects of consuming arsenic include swelling of the face, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. More serious effects include internal bleeding, coma, and even permanent nerve damage.
Arsenic gets into well water through natural processes. As groundwater flows through rocks and soil that contains arsenic, some of the arsenic is known to dissolve into the water. It is highly recommended to test your well water for this harmful contaminant. It should be noted that the amount of arsenic found in well water can vary throughout the year. For this reason, experts recommend testing for arsenic once in the late summer and once again in early spring to see if there are any seasonal differences.
Nitrate is a chemical found in most fertilizers, manure, and liquid waste discharged from septic tanks. Further, natural bacteria in soil can convert nitrogen into nitrate. Nitrate has been known to contaminate private well water, as rain or irrigation water can carry nitrate down through the soil and into the groundwater supply. If your private well draws from this groundwater supply, your drinking water may contain nitrate.
There are various health problems that can be caused by the consumption of nitrate. Specifically, nitrate reduces the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen. While these red blood cells rapidly return to normal in most adults and children, this process can take much longer in infants. Infants that drink water contaminated by high levels of nitrate can develop a serious health condition known as methemoglobinemia, also known as “blue baby syndrome.”
It should be noted that shallow wells, poorly sealed wells, or poorly constructed wells are at the greatest risk of nitrate contamination. It is highly recommended that you test for nitrate every year. Your county’s health department can specify where you can get your water tested and may offer specific recommendations. In the event that your nitrate tests are 5 mg/L or higher, you’ll want to retest in six months.
Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral that is present in rocks, sediment, and soil. Although manganese is a beneficial mineral found in grains and vegetables, it is generally regarded as unhealthy for humans when it is found in drinking water in concentrations of as little as 0.5 parts per million. Manganese is generally pretty difficult to remove from drinking water due to the fact that its removal depends on its state of oxidation, the presence of other minerals, the pH of the water, and the total dissolved solids (TDS) of the water being treated.
Studies suggest that there is a link between exposure to manganese in drinking water and neurological issues found in infants and children. This includes changes in behavior, speech and memory difficulties, lower IQ, and lack of movement control and coordination. So, what are some common indicators of manganese in drinking water? If you are experiencing black stains on your shower, laundry, or plumbing fixtures, it is likely that you have manganese in your drinking water. To have your water tested for manganese, find a certified drinking water laboratory. Visit the EPA’s drinking water lab certification page for a list of certified drinking water laboratories in your area.
Lead and Copper
Finally, the last contaminant that you should be testing your well water for is lead and copper. While these metals are naturally occurring, they aren’t typically found in groundwater. Instead, lead and copper tend to contaminate well water as it goes through the plumbing system in older homes. For this reason, replacing the older plumbing system will effectively eliminate lead and copper. This, however, can be costly for some people, and flushing the water system for up to two minutes before using – if it hasn’t been used in several hours – may be a more cost-effective solution.
Exposure to lead and copper in well water can cause a series of health problems ranging from stomach distress to brain damage, according to the EPA. In order to test your well water for lead and copper, the EPA recommends “checking with your health department, or with any nearby water utilities that use groundwater, for more information on contaminants of concern in your area.” Testing for lead and copper in your water is likely to cost between $20 and $100, but this is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Fresh, Clean Water with Office H2O!
Now that you know about the five most common toxins to test for if you have well water, you may be wondering what you can do to maximize the safety of you and your family. One of the best ways to protect you and your family from the harmful toxins we’ve discussed today is through the usage of a bottleless water system.
While a bottleless water system may not completely eliminate toxins from your drinking water, the Environmental Working Group states that the gold standard for any in-house or in-office filtration system that removes toxins from your drinking water is a system that uses reverse osmosis filtration. Our bottleless water systems here at Office H2O utilize state-of-the-art reverse osmosis or UF filter combination which enhances the water by providing minerals and using an advanced sanitation process. Our systems are also eco-friendly and cost-effective. Shop our selection today and enjoy renewed peace of mind!