First of all, we have to dispel a few myths about wells. It does not matter if you have a dug well or a drilled well. You can have a dug well with water that is the nectar of the gods or a drilled well with water from hell or the opposite. Depth of the well, location are all irrelevant. It is a matter of luck and chance. You may have a well that has been wonderful with lots of great tasting water for years and one day it goes bad. Every time you pump water out of your well more water comes in to replace it and nobody has any idea where it is coming from.
For the most part, I have found the deeper the well, the poorer the quality of water but this is not a hard and fast rule. Deeper wells tend to have a higher TDS (total dissolved solids-which is a measure of the total amount of dissolved salts, metals, and minerals dissolved in the water that you cannot see.) and over 160 feet deep sulphur (rotten egg odour) tends to show up.
The water in your well started as rain that soaked through the soil and into the cracks in the rocks that became the aquifer that supplies your well. Your water may be ancient or relatively new. The age of your water can be determined by the levels of deuterium present.
Rain water is made naturally acidic by atmospheric carbon dioxide, forming a weak solution of carbonic acid. As the water percolates down through the soil and rock this acidity dissolves naturally occurring metals, minerals, salts, and gases. Depending on the material it passes through will determine the makeup of your water.
Don't pour Javex or chlorine bleach down your well. It will not solve any real problem. It may mask it for a few days or weeks but you'll still have the problem. Its simple... It's not the water in your well that is contaminated, it's the aquifer, so bleaching your well only treats the well water not the aquifer itself. Welcome to planet earth!
If you have a filter system chlorine bleach may permanently damage the filter media leading to costly replacement.
Common Well Problems
Bacteria and that E Coli stuff:
Understand this, we live on a planet that has a lot of mammals on it. From the smallest mammal our Ontario native pigmy shrew to the largest land mammal the African elephant, they all deficate. Rain will carry the feces down through cracks in the rock and soils, down through worm, mouse, and critter holes to the water table. That's how your well becomes contaminated with coliform and E coli bacteria. Nothing new, it has always been that way. Dumping chlorine bleach down your well will accomplish nothing but a short term fix.
Pink Slime Staining
Iron and Manganese are the two most common problems we deal with. Iron will cause staining on bathroom fixtures and laundry and have a musty metallic odour. Iron by itself will leave a orange / brown stain. If mixed with manganese it imparts a dark brown stain. Iron will leave stains in concentrations as low as 0.5 parts per million, 0.3 ppm is the current Ministry of the Environment guideline. Manganese leaves a jet black stain with as little as 0.05 ppm. It will discolour hair and fingernails on some people. If you want to get a good idea of your long term iron and manganese levels, take the lid off the back of your toilet tank. The staining of the interior of the tank below the water line will give you an idea of how much iron and manganese is in your water. Orange/brown colour indicates more iron. Jet black mostly manganese. Dark brown a mixture of both.
There are several ways to filter out these two metals, a wrong choice can be a real waste of money. The form of Iron or manganese is what will determine the removal method as well as what else is in your water that you need to deal with.
Pink slime is another problem often mistaken for iron. This does not come from your well but the air. Your toilet is a petri dish with lots of nutrient, warmth, water, and oxygen. It is a perfect place to grow a lot of things. To fix this problem add 2 ounces of bleach to the back of the tank, flush and add another 2 ounces to the tank and let sit for an hour or more. The easy way to tell if it is just slime is it is easily washed off with the toilet brush and leaves no permanent stain.
Don't let anybody sell you a filter for this. It will do nothing.
People enjoying sulphur bath
Sulphur, that distinctive unpleasant rotten egg odour is also a common problem with wells and often occurs with iron and manganese. Together iron, manganese, and sulphur are called the troublesome trio in the water treatment industry. Sulphur odours in water need to be separated between hot and cold water. If you only notice the sulphur odour in the hot water then the cause is likely from the reaction of the magnesium anode rod in the hot water tank to your water supply. Removing the magnesium anode rod will usually solve this problem. However, it will likely shorten the lifespan of your hot water tank. Some people try changing the magnesium anode rod to an aluminum anode rod. The feedback I have received over the years has shown this not to be very successful. Sulphur at low levels is harmless and many people find bathing in sulphur waters very therapeutic. High levels are very toxic as evidenced by the buffalo deaths in Yellowstone National Park.
Sulphur in most cases is easy to filter out of water. Our Water Healer Model: CACAR1047 does a great job with little to no maintenance.
As I mentioned earlier, the water in your well is simply surface water that seeped down into the ground. It only makes sense that you are likely to have colour caused by tannins in your well water. Tannins or "Total Organic Carbon", impart a distinctive yellow colour to the cold and hot water. (If you only have colour in the hot it is likely a problem with the hot water tank eg: rusting.) Tannins come from leaves and vegetation much like making a cup of tea. Colour from tannins in well water is usually accompanied with iron and manganese. Our Water Model: MB1047CL is a proven solution to this problen.
Hardness is caused when the acidity of rain water dissolves naturally occurring calcium and magnesium in limestone and other rocks. Water hardness is responsible for most scale formation in hot water heaters and forms insoluble "curd" when it reacts with soaps. Hardness is usually expressed in grains per gallon (GPG), parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per litre (mg/l), all as calcium carbonate equivalent.
Hard water dries your skin and makes your hair dry, dull, and brittle. Softened water is the best beauty treatment you can buy, bar none. Besides that it saves money on soaps, fabric softeners, razor blades. It makes cleaning in the kitchen and bathrooms much easier. Clothes last longer. Shaving is smoother. That slippery feeling, like you can't get the soap of is just your natural body oils because there is no soap scum on your body
Phenols go right along with tannins. Its no secret that we have a lot of swamp in Ontario, especially in Parry Sound and Muskoka. When vegetation rots in swamps without oxygen you have what is known as anaerobic decomposition. In the presents of oxygen (aerobic) and microcyllium fungi in soils vegetation breaks down into carbon and water. Without oxygen vegetation eventually breaks down into peat, coal, oil etc. with one of the early breakdown product being phenols. Take a stick and thrust it into the muck bottom of a swamp. The bubbles that rise to the surface are methane and hydrogen sulphide gas. The oily film that spreads across the surface of the water is phenols.Phenols have been implicated in breast cancer.
Scholarly Articles on Phenols: http://www.bcerc.org/COTCpubs/BCERC.FactSheet_Phenols.pdf
TDS or Total Dissolved Solids
TDS or Total Dissolved Solids
TDS or "Total dissolved solids" is a measure of the total amount of minerals, metals, and salts that are dissolved in your water that you cannot see or what would be left behind if all the water was evaporated. The amount is expressed as (ppm) or (mg/l). A TDS of 0 ppm would be equivalent to distilled or deionized water. Well water in the Parry Sound / Muskoka can range from less than 10 ppm to over 25,000 ppm. These extremes are rare. 100 ppm to 250 are most common. Over 500 ppm is not recommended for human consumption. Over 1000 ppm is potentially harmful. I personally believe the closer you get to 0 ppm or pure H2O the better off you are. Drink pure water and get your nutrition from your diet. TDS is important to know as it gives you the total of all contaminants competing for removal in the water treatment process.
PH is the scale used to measure the acidity or alkalinity of water. A PH below 6.5 indicates corrosive water while a PH above 8.5 incrustative and could indicate contaminated water or the presence of alkaline mineral salts. The PH of your well water is one of the most important parameters that you need to know in order to correct a water problem. It is like temperature, you don't wear shorts when its freezing or a parka when its 90.
The PH of lake water can vary dramatically in a 24 hour period. At 2:00 PM on a sunny summer afternoon when the phytoplanktons and algae are photosynthesizing the PH of the water can be 9.5 or higher as all the dissolved carbon dioxide is consumed. At night when reverse photosynthesis occurs the PH can drop to 6.3 or lower.
If your copper pipes are getting pin hole leaks, installing a neutralizing filter will not solve any problems as the damage to your plumbing is already done. Better to put that money towards replacing the copper pipes with PEX or Wirsbro plastic piping.
Gases give a milky or cloudy appearance to water when you first fill a glass of water. To clearly identify that it is gases and not colloidal clay let the glass sit for 5 or 6 minutes. If it is gasses the cloud of fine bubbles will rise to the surface and dissipate. If it is colloidal clay it will not clear. The most common gas is carbon dioxide, generally odourless and harmless. The gas is formed by dissolved carbon dioxide getting into ground water as surface water seeps down through soil and cracks in the rock. Sometime this carbonic acid will mix with calcium carbonate in the rocks and soils and create naturally occurring "soda water".
Radon gas is however, not harmless and considered the second leading cause of lung cancer and gastro intestinal cancer and is linked to skin cancer. It is naturally occurring and results from the breakdown of radium 226 and radium 228 in the ground. Levels in precambrian rock can be very high. Levels over 1000 picocuries can be dangerous. Radon is best removed with a well designed and maintained HVAC system. It can be removed in low levels (under 3000 Picocuries) from water by activated carbon filtration. High levels of radon are removed by aeration vented to the outside.
You can get your water tested for radon gas and radionuclides by:
Becquerel Laboratories Inc., 1-877-726-3080 or 1-877-726-3080 - 6790 Kitimat Road, Unit 4, Mississauga, Ontario, http://www.becquerellabs.com/
Radon gas You Tube documentaries:
Chlorides over 500 ppm may impart a salty or bitter taste to water. Chloride are naturally occurring and can be removed by Reverse Osmosis, nanofiltration, distillation, or Deionization. High levels of chlorides over 1200 ppm are very corrosive. They will rust stainless steel. The casing of a drilled well ( photo to the left) are a good example of high levels of chlorides. Hi levels of chlorides or high TDS (total dissolved solids) increase the conductivity of water which simply means increase of the flow of electricity which disassociates the ions in the metal casing.
These are a few of the common problems that occur in well water and there are other unique problems that do crop up from time to time like gasoline and fuel oil, arsenic, silicon, organic odours and others. Call us, we have garnered a lot of experience with many unique problems over the last 35 years. I would also recommend talking to some of the labs under the tab "Frequently asked Questions".