Wilkes University geologist says "Annual testing is the best way to keep your drinking water safe"

Wilkes University geologist says:
Annual testing is the best way to keep your drinking water safe
By Marigrace Heyer
The Times News, © 2003
Thursday, August 14, 2003

Have your well water tested once a year was the advice of professional geologist Brian Oram, who spoke at last night’s program devoted to well water safety.

“Know Your Well Water” was presented at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center by the Carbon County Groundwater Guardians. About 20 local residents were in attendance.

Besides Oram, who described the signs of contaminated water and what to do about it, Keith Lotier of Moyer Well Drilling, answered questions about well drilling procedures and what homeowners can do to keep wells operating efficiently.

Oram, who is director of the Center for Environmental Quality at Wilkes University and owner of B.F. Environmental Consultants, said color, appearance, taste and odor are the first clues to the homeowner that there may be a problem with his well water.

But, he said, some chemicals, especially organic compounds and bacterial agents, may have toxic or pathogenic (disease causing) levels without any visible clues.

“That’s why I recommend having your well water tested once a year,” he said.

Taste problems include an alkali flavor which indicates hardness and high alkalinity in the water, and a metallic taste, which can be caused by too much iron, copper and zinc.

The smell of your drinking water can be another sign that it is contaminated.

A rotten egg or musty odor could be produced by sulfate-reducing bacteria, while grassy, fishy, vegetable and cucumber odors indicate algal bioproducts.

An oily odor may be caused by gasoline or oil contamination, or possibly by nuisance bacteria .

Water that smells like methane gas means there is organic decomposition or the presence of gas in the aquifer.

Color is also a sign that something is wrong with your well water, Oram said.

For instance, a milky appearance could mean there are carbonates, excessive air or suspended solids present.

A blackish tint could be a sign of manganese, iron or slime bacteria infiltrating the water.

A yellow color indicates the presence or humic or fluvic compounds such as iron or bacteria.

A reddish tint means there is iron or bacteria in the water.

For some problems, Oram recommends a chlorination shock procedure to the well.

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