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Well owners responsible for water safety

Posted: February 10, 2013 - 1:09am

When the faucet is turned on, you expect the water to be safe to drink. If it comes from the county system, the water that comes out of the faucet has been tested and meets safety standards. However, everyone does not receive water from a municipal source.

There are many private wells in the area. The owners of these wells expect the water pumped out of the ground to be safe to drink. The owner of the well is responsible for testing the quality of the water he is drinking.

Before those who receive water from a municipal water source stop reading, everyone can help protect the groundwater that others are using for drinking water. By properly disposing of household chemicals, oil, gasoline, paints and pesticides, everyone can reduce the amount of these products that get into ground water. Proper disposal of these items includes taking them to the proper recycling center and not pouring them on the ground or down the storm drain.

In Georgia, there are two main types of wells. Shallow wells are less than 100 feet deep and usually are 24 inches in diameter. Deep wells are more than 100 feet deep, and usually are 4 to 6 inches in diameter.

Shallow wells usually have more problems with bacteria than deep wells.

Regardless of well type, the University of Georgia recommends testing for Total Coliform (W35) at least once a year. Call the extension office before taking the sample because there are specific instructions on how to perform this test. It is important to remember the sample must be received within 24 hours of collection, and the sample must be collected in a sterile container obtained from the Extension office. Contact the Extension office at (706) 541-4011 for more information.

What does the owner of a well need to do to make sure the water is safe to drink? Clear water, that has no odor or bad taste, does not mean that it is safe to drink. Bacteria in water have no taste or odor. Testing your drinking water for bacteria is important because bacteria can cause health problems. Flu-like symptoms and intestinal problems that don’t go away could be an indication of bacteria in drinking water.

To protect the well from bacterial contamination, perform a visual inspection of the area around the well. Wells need to be located at least 100 feet away and uphill from the septic system or animal confinement areas. There should be no trees close to the well. Tree roots growing into wells are a major source of bacteria. Well houses should be cleaned out. This is not a good place to store gasoline, oil or pesticides. The well should be properly sealed. Wells that are not sealed allow insects, rodents, and other unwanted pests into them.

Other problems that occur in wells are high mineral content. Most of the minerals in well water do not cause health problems, but they can cause stains. Reddish, black or blue-green stains in sinks, tubs and plumbing fixtures are the most common. The reddish stains are from iron, and the black stains are from manganese. Both of these minerals can be removed by filtration systems. The blue-green stains are from copper. This problem can be solved by raising the pH of the water with a different type of filtration system.

Filtration systems are available in a variety of prices ranging from $100 to $6,000. Before spending money on a filtration system, test the well water.

The expanded water test (W2) from the University of Georgia will give a good indication of the type of filtration system needed, if any.

Remember, the safety of the water from a private well is the responsibility of the owner.

Tripp Williams, Columbia County’s agriculture and natural resource extension agent, can be reached at (706) 541-4011, or trippj@uga.edu.

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