Care of Domestic Water Wells

Care of Domestic Water Wells

Postby Elizabeth » Thu Feb 11, 2010 8:55 pm

A Guide to Domestic Water Wells, by Olive
By James Wesley, Rawles on January 6, 2010 9:11 PM

The first issue I’ll address is testing. Most states and local health departments have settled on the coliform test as the only means to pass judgment on a well. This is a big error in my opinion. This test is often misrepresented as a “Bac-T” test and is assumed to include all bacteria by professionals and laymen alike. Bacteria are found everywhere, and it is impossible to find a well that does not have resident bacterial populations, no matter how deep or where it is located. If a test has been performed or is required, find out what type of test and results you will get. You want more than just a presence/absence, you want to know what is there and how many.

The second issue is well head protection. In my opinion, it is more important for the residential or “back-yard well owner” as they do not have the treatment systems in place nor the mandatory testing requirements. So, for the SB readers, I recommend:
1. Examine the well and area around the well head. Identify any conduits or drainage that may impact the well or the area adjacent to the well. If there is any area of erosion or subsidence (ground collapse), seal with Bentonite (well seal or well plug) and back-fill the area. Manage the drainage in the area so that no flow impacts the well or settles near the well. If you have a “well house” – examine it for leaks and possible rodent use. Clean it out and check it regularly. If you have a concrete well “pad”, make sure it is not being compromised or that erosion is occurring underneath it. You may need to stabilize and manage drainage around it too.
2. Collect information. Now that you’ve addressed the topside, scour all possible records for well data. This may be very difficult – if you cannot find information on the well, contact a driller or pump installer and schedule a visit. You want to know the age and dimensions of your well (depth, diameter), the type of completion (steel, pvc, screen, or open borehole), static and operating water level; type, age, and efficiency of the pump. Knowledge is key! Why? All means of operating, cleaning or disinfecting the well are dependent on the size of the well!

The next issue we tend to deal with is fouling. Fouling occurs as a number of issues – it can be bacterial presence, hard scale build-up, the accumulation of sediment, or a combination of each of these issues. Fouling in a filter or pressure tank may reflect greater problems downhole. More often than not, the problems occur do to the inactiveness of the well.
1. Keep the Well Active! In some cases, water sitting idle for only a couple of hours in the well can become ripe with bacteria and cause significant plugging to occur within the well. In addition to restricting anaerobic growth, operational wells continually purge debris from the system, preventing accumulations from occurring within the borehole. Hardness loss and geochemical congestion are also limited in active well systems. Corrosion, resulting from over pumping and a variety of factors, can be reduced as well. I understand that many use wells as back-ups or for emergency needs. You need to investigate methods of cycling the well – even if for just a limited time. There are a variety of timers and triggers that can be used. Solar powered systems and floats can be very beneficial in maintaining effective storage while also regularly exercising the well.
2. Treating the Well. If and when it comes time to have the well cleaned or disinfected, take the time to do it right. The number one issue we find in failed well cleanings is the failure to evacuate the bottom of the well. The bottom of the well acts as a sump, often collecting sediment as well as organic debris. As mentioned above, this can plague a well and also reduce the effectiveness of cleaning efforts. Additionally, have the contractor find out what the problem is and design a specific treatment, don’t just have them do what they normally do to any well…each well is different!.
Check your well periodically for corrosion, increased air, foul odors or discoloration. If possible, purchase a test kit and track the quality of your water. Each of these can be a sign of trouble downhole. Identifying problems early is often cheaper to respond to and you have a greater chance of success. I also recommend that you contact your local extension office or county sanitarian; periodically these agencies may offer workshops regarding wells and private water supplies.

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