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Dangers From Contaminants In Unregulated Private Wells

By December 8, 2020No Comments


About an average of 13 million American households owns a private well. Private wells are not subject to federal legislation that apply to public drinking water systems. Thus, it is up to well owners to regularly check the safety of their drinking water. To ensure it is safe for human consumption.

The regulatory reach of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is restricted to public drinking water systems, which are administered by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA does not control private wells or publicize criteria or standards, although they give recommendations.

A small number of states have provisions on private well water safety and quality. At the same time, a few counties within states have regulations overseeing private well inspections. The water in private wells originates from rainfall that is absorbed into the ground. Where it is caught in pores and spaces. Otherwise called spring or aquifer, this is “groundwater” that is gotten to by wells. In case that groundwater gets polluted from contaminants during overflow or through leakage, it can bring about sickness whenever ingested. Likely sources of contamination contain naturally occurring conditions. Additionally, human activities range from minerals and metals that drain from the soil, such as arsenic, iron, and manganese, to spillage from landfills, leaking septic tanks and pesticides. Testing well water is a generally basic process. An accredited laboratory investigates sample water from the well. This could be the state or local public health laboratory. The laboratory gives test kits. It can either be dropped off at the research center or sent by for overnight delivery. The testing expense differs, depending upon the research center doing the testing and the number and kind of tests directed. 

Kinds of Contamination

Major health-related outcomes can result from contaminated water. These involve gastrointestinal disease from bacteria, viruses, parasites, heavy metal poisoning from lead, arsenic, and different metals or poisoning from fertilizer or synthetic compounds.

  • Microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, viruses, and parasites)

Source of contamination: Run-off from rainfall, snowmelt, leakage from underground storage tanks, and septic leach.
ConsequencesGastrointestinal illness
  • Nitrate and nitrites

Source of contamination: Present in chemical fertilizers, human sewage, and animal waste and fertilizers.
ConsequencesHigh levels of nitrate/nitrites can cause methemoglobinemia or blue baby syndrome. Infants under the age of six months who drink water with high nitrate levels can become ill and die.
  • Heavy metals (e.g., arsenic, antimony, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, selenium, and others)

Source of contamination: Can leach into water from household plumbing and service lines. Activities by mining operations, petroleum refineries, electronics manufacturers, municipal waste disposal, cement plants can contaminate groundwater. Leaching can also occur from natural mineral deposits. 
ConsequencesExposure to high levels of heavy metals can result in acute and chronic toxicity, liver, kidney, intestinal damage, anemia, and cancer.
  • Organic chemicals

Source of contamination: Present in many household products and widely used in agriculture and industry, these chemicals can contaminate groundwater through waste disposal, spills, and surface water run-off.
ConsequencesExposure to high levels of organic chemicals can result in damage to kidneys, liver, circulatory system, nervous system, and the reproductive system.
  • Radionuclides (i.e., radioactive forms of elements such as uranium and radium)

Source of contamination: Can be discharged by uranium mining and milling, coal mining, and nuclear power production. May also be naturally found in groundwater. 
ConsequencesExposure to high radionuclides levels can result in toxic kidney effects and a high risk of cancer.
  • Fluoride

Source of contamination: Naturally found in many aquifers.
ConsequencesExposure to high levels can cause skeletal fluorosis, which causes pain and tenderness of bones and joints. Exposure to high levels during formative tooth enamel development may cause dental fluorosis, resulting in tooth discoloration and denting of teeth. 

Degree of Contamination

The latest national survey of private wells’ quality was done in 2009 by the US Geological Survey (USGS). It tested private wells in 48 states. Found that about 23% of the wells had at least one contaminant at a degree of likely health concern. Findings included: 

  • The contaminants frequently found at these elevated concentrations were inorganic chemicals. These are metals, radionuclides, and nitrate; these, however, nitrate are gotten fundamentally from natural sources. 
  • Like pesticides and solvents, artificial organic compounds were found in the greater part (60%) of the domestic wells inspected. Yet concentrations were rarely more noteworthy than human-health standards (under 1% of wells). 
  • About half of the wells had at least one “nuisance” contaminant; this is a compound that harms taste, smell, or other stylish factors—at a level or concentrations outside the scope of qualities suggested by the US Environmental Protection Agency. 
  • Microbial contaminants such as bacteria were found in around 33% of the roughly 400 wells that had their water dissected for those contaminants. 
  • Contaminants detected in domestic wells, for the most part, co-happened with different contaminants as mixtures, instead of alone. This is a prospective concern because the total toxicity can be greater than that of any single contaminant.

Regulations of State and Local

There are no federal regulations on private wells. However, federal agencies give proposals and broad specialized guidelines. Regulation is additionally restricted at the state and local levels. A small number of states have guidelines on private well testing. A portion of these provisions applies to landlords or wells serving numerous units. 

Counties regularly have provisions in building standards and allowing measures. One model is New Jersey’s Private Well Testing Act. Passed in 2001, it requires dealers or purchasers of a property with wells to test the untreated water for a kind of water quality limit and survey the test results preceding the title’s closing. Under the law, landowners are needed to test the well water once every five years. And then give a copy of the results to each tenant. The law was amended in 2018 to incorporate extra contaminants resolved to have hindering health impacts. 

report by the New Jersey Department of Environment Protection gives insights concerning the law and its usage. 

North Carolina General Statute 87-97 expects districts to have programs to allow, investigate, and test private wells. Wells must be tested for bacterial and chemical contaminants within 30 days of completion. Tests are acquired by the health office or laboratory staff. Connecticut additionally requires testing of recently built wells. 

The Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act applies to private wells that serve more than 25 people. Michigan has arranged sampling guidelines for testing the presence of PFAS in private wells. Furthermore suggests well testing for arsenic

Florida does not have well testing guidelines for single-family households or individual rental units, yet has prerequisites for wells that serve different rental units or business property, under either the state’s Limited Use Public Water System rule or the Florida Safe Drinking Water Act. The state’s Landlord/Tenant Law places an obligation on the landowners to keep up plumbing in great working condition. Some Florida areas have rules on testing new wells and repairs.

Duty of Public Laboratories

The duty of states—and public laboratories, is essentially centered around recommendations and instruction of well owners, alongside help to assist them in guaranteeing their drinking water quality. A 2017 survey by Private Well Class gives bits of knowledge into the state’s function and nearby local public health and environmental laboratories in private well testing. Divided into 37 state public health and environmental laboratories and local laboratory directors, the survey’s discoveries center around the ability and limit of public health and environmental laboratories.

• About 70% of state public health laboratories and 57% of local public health laboratories acknowledge private well water tests from the general population. 

• Public health laboratories test a yearly median of roughly 4,000 (state) and 1,000 (local) private well tests. There was great unevenness in the number of tests led. One state laboratory center tested 50,000 samples also, another tried 20,000. A local laboratory announced leading 4,000 tests.  

• Approximately 75-84% of local and state public health laboratories depend on service fees to help the private well testing program.

Keeping Wells From Contamination

Private well owners can find a way to maintain a strategic distance from well water contamination. 

Location of the Well Site 

The location for another well ought to be deliberately thought of. Wells ought to be located at least 200 feet from a landfill, garbage dump, or sewer and at any rate, 50 feet from a septic tank, except if state or local codes or guidelines are tougher. Whenever the situation allows, wells ought to be situated at higher elevations than the surrounding zones to reduce the chance of contamination. Many states and localities require permits for wells and have codes and guidelines set up to help guarantee water security. There are numerous resources to help owners distinguish a suitable site and draw in qualified contractors to guarantee that a fitting site is selected. 

Regular Testing 

Numerous states and counties urge private well owners to test their well water consistently. Annual testing is frequently suggested for select pollutants (e.g., nitrate, coliform microorganisms). Less successive testing is suggested for different foreign contaminants.  


The Water Systems Council suggests making a well maintenance record and a particular well maintenance plan for inspection and testing of well water, just as for water treatment systems. 

Avoiding Contamination 

Well owners can find a way to prevent contamination. Some preventive advances include: 
• Keeping unsafe chemicals (e.g., paint, compost, pesticides, engine oil) away from the well. 
• Inspecting and keeping up septic systems on the property. 
• Do not permit garage, rooftop, or road overflow to gather around the well. 
• Securing snow or leaves do not gather around the well. 
• Keeping pets and livestock waste away from the well. 

Take Measures After a Flood 

Floodwaters can take a wide scope of contaminants (e.g., sewage, chemicals). Following a flood, a well and pump inspection ought to be directed. In case the well has been covered in flood, emergency disinfection is vital. Following disinfection, the water must be tested.


State and local offices occupied with activities to advance testing of private wells report that well owners regularly experience deciphering testing results, distinguishing suitable treatment, and dealing with treatment expenses.

Preventive Approaches

Various preventive approaches can be made to restrict the contamination of groundwater. The agricultural community can decrease the use of pesticides and fertilizers. In regions with hard winters, communities find a way to decrease the amount of salt on the roads as the groundwater consumes the chemicals. Rapidly containing and tending to chemical spills can diminish the contamination of groundwater.

Also, it is practical to secure a water purification systemChoose a water filter that does not require to be connected to your home plumbing system. A complete standalone system can be set up in less than 10 minutes without any tools. Above all, one that can remove hundreds of contaminants such as viruses, bacteria, cysts, parasites, pesticides, chlorine, fluoride, VOC’s and more especially from your well water. is a replacement water and air filter company located in the United States. The views and opinions contained herein are solely those of the original author and do not represent Eco Blue Life or its affiliates. This article was originally published on  
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