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What to Know About Bacteria In Well Water

Blue heron water, bucks county, what to know about bacteria in well water

It’s important to understand the dangers associated with bacteria in well water to avoid getting sick. You can use a WQI (water quality indicator) test to ensure your drinking water is safe.

How Often Should You Check Your Well for Bacteria?

It’s important to have regular well checks to ensure your drinking and bathing water is safe. Remember that even when you aren’t consuming the water, any water that touches your skin is absorbed by your body in some form or another.

  • Annual Tests: Wells should be tested at least once a year. The best time to do this is at the spring thaw when ice and snow melt away and may cause seepage into your well water, or an addition of nutrients and minerals from the soil which weren’t there previously.
  • Plumbing Work: You should also have your water tested anytime you have work done on your plumbing, as the pipes could potentially send liquid both ways and you don’t want your well polluted by outgoing waterways.
  • Changes to Your Water: If you notice an odor or taste change in your well water, it’s worth getting it checked. Well water may not always run clear the same way as city water, so it doesn’t always mean there’s an issue if your water has a yellow tinge. That said, if your water is normally one color and suddenly changes, it’s time for a WQI test.
  • Major Weather: If you’re in an area with earthquakes or tornadoes, check your well anytime these weather patterns impact your community. You may also want to check your water after a major rainstorm.

Types of Bacteria Commonly Found in Well Water

Believe it or not, your drinking water could be contaminated by hundreds of microorganisms. Most of them are harmless, but some can make you very sick. When you test your water with a WQI, there are common types of bacteria and chemicals to be especially cautious of, including:

  • E. Coli – Esterichia coli, or E. coli, is a bacteria found in fecal matter like sewage. E coli can cause mild symptoms like upset stomach and diarrhea, or extreme symptoms, even leading to diseases like Hepatitis.
  • Nitrate – Nitrate is something you likely encounter regularly as a natural source in food ingredients. While nitrates can be harmless in small quantities, humans are not meant to ingest high counts of nitrates. Testing water for nitrate count can help you determine whether you need an additional filtration system.
  • Coliforms – E. coli is an example of a coliform, but it isn’t the only coliform you might find in your well. Fortunately, many coliforms are harmless and come into your well through the soil and debris surrounding your well. It’s when you get high counts of coliforms that you need to worry. Rather than testing for types of coliforms (apart from E. coli), you should test for coliform levels. High levels might need to be treated, while low levels are generally safe to consume.
  • Pesticides – If you use pesticides on your lawn and garden, they could be washed into your wall naturally during rainfall, or by gravity alone. Pesticides are harmful to consume, and while your well water will dilute them, too much could be especially harmful to small children and pets. Test your water for pesticides and be cautious about pesticide application near your well.

Testing for pH Balance

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