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The Wonders of Private Well Water


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 13 million households in the United States get their water from a private well source, and 30 percent of Canadian residents do the same. Wells today are a far cry from the colonial-style stone basins where heroes like Lassie did their best work. Most modern wells are drilled and outfitted with a pump to force groundwater into the plumbing of a home.

So we have established well water is far from uncommon, which means some homeowners’ ever-growing to-do list just grew by one check box: testing the well water. Why you? In the U.S., for example, private water systems that serve no more than 25 people at least 60 days of the year and have no more than 15 service connections are not regulated by the EPA.

Well water, by and large, is safe to drink and use for laundry, bathing and washing the dishes. But it can be vulnerable if left unchecked. Private wells simply do not enjoy the same regulation as a municipal water supply.

Homes that suffer from either contaminant, or both, are rarely surprised when told there is a water issue. Iron comes in many forms and can make water taste metallic, while leaving its mark on porcelain, cleaning utensils and plumbing fixtures. Hydrogen sulfide in water creates a pungent bouquet reminiscent of rotten eggs whenever the faucet is turned on.

But not all contaminants so readily give themselves up for easy identification.

Other contaminants that may infiltrate some private wells include arsenic, nitrates and radon – all of which can be tasteless and odorless. Furthermore, the seasons themselves can work against well owners. In late spring and early summer, heavy rains and flooding can unlock contaminants held at bay during the winter months. Those contaminants may then find themselves in groundwater and affect deeply drilled water wells.

Not all contamination is naturally-occurring either. Nitrates, for example, are capturing headlines throughout Iowa after contamination spikes are being blamed on agricultural run-off.

Water should be one of the biggest considerations when moving because of all the different factors that may change day-to-day or season-to-season. For new homeowners looking for peace of mind,  researching common water problems in your area and getting your water tested by a trusted professional is a great place to start.

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