Drinking Well Contamination

January 28th, 2014

Even if your water well only supports your household, it needs to be tested regularly for contamination.

home well

Image via Oliver Murani (Flickr)

Drinking Well Contamination

Many areas in the United States, especially rural areas, utilize water wells to supply their drinking water. These wells are as susceptible to water contamination as municipal water sources – if not more so in some cases. Additionally, these wells are not regulated by the EPA as municipal water is, so the well owner is solely responsible in ensuring there is zero drinking water contamination present in the water well. It is critical that you test your water well for contamination on a regular basis, because any type of contaminated water can cause illness and potentially death.

Water Well Facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control – you know them as the CDC – 15 million households in the United States get their drinking water from water wells, and all homes sharing the same aquifer are affected by any water well contamination. Water contamination inside these wells can actually occur naturally, resulting from the chemicals and minerals found in our water. Other ways water wells become contaminated is through runoff from food and animal farming and sewage overflows.

The CDC sites twelve contaminants commonly found in water wells. They are:

  1. Hepatitis A
  2. Giardia intestinalis
  3. Campylobacter
  4. E. coli
  5. Shigella
  6. Salmonella
  7. Cryptosporidium
  8. Arsenic
  9. Gasoline
  10. Nitrate
  11. Phenol
  12. Selenium

These contaminants are known to be an underlying cause of numerous health issues. Drinking water contamination side effects can include illnesses as minor as an upset stomach to something as major as neurological disorders. Infants, children, and the elderly are particularly susceptible to illness from contaminated well water, as is anyone who is currently suffering from a compromised immune system.

Water Well Owner Responsibility

As I said above, water wells are not regulated by the EPA; therefore, they are not tested by the EPA either. It is the water well owner’s responsibility to ensure the water well is safe and the water stored inside is contaminant-free. The CDC recommends water wells receive a complete inspection annually to prevent drinking water contamination. These inspections include ensuring that the water well is clean, all mechanisms are in proper working order, and the drinking water contained inside the well be properly tested.

I recommend contacting your local health department or a properly licensed water well system professional to aid in the water well inspection. I also recommend having your water tested in a properly certified lab to ensure there is minimal water contamination found in your well water. These professionals are not only qualified to give your water well and the water it contains a clean bill of health, they can direct you to a safe water source should your well be contaminated. You’ll need clean and safe water until the issues found in your water well are resolved.

Extra Precautionary Measures

Even if your water well passes all inspection and receives the a-okay to keep using it, you should still take the extra precaution of filtering the water that comes into your home. Again, contamination comes in many forms, including natural contamination and agricultural runoff. Properly filtering your water well’s water ensures you are drinking clean, healthy water at all times. After all, you do not want to put your family at risk of contracting a water-borne illness. It makes sense to take the extra step of filtering all tap water entering your home from your water well. This is a small, simple step you can take to add that extra layer of protection over your family’s health!


Written By: Lynn Taylor

2 responses to “Drinking Well Contamination”

  1. Pam T. writes:

    If you’re going to just filter the water anyway is there really any benefit in testing? I say this as it’s about $300 to test at a local lab and that $ could go towards a Berkey filtration system.

  2. Jerry Alonzy writes:


    There are different types of filtration systems available based on the volume of water you will be using and your ability or means to install them. With each system, there are various types of filter cartridges that differ substantially in cost depending on your needs. Some homeowners are blessed with very pure water and only need a simple sediment filter to keep grit from damaging their plumbing systems. Others have a host of difficult-to-remove chemicals and/or metals that require more robust cleaning.

    Furthermore, stand-alone systems such as Berkey offers are not very useful if your problem is sediment since they are intended to protect you, not your plumbing! However, if your water is perfectly fine to use for everyday cleaning, bathing, etc., but has contaminants that you shouldn’t ingest, a stand-alone unit may be the best and most economical choice.

    Knowing at least the basics of what you are dealing with contamination-wise can not only give you more peace of mind but, over the long term, save you lots of money by not overpaying! Whether or not these savings are meaningful to you is, of course, your choice.