Private Well Owner Outreach to Private Property Owners Association in the Poconos – Monroe County

The Keystone Clean Water Team was very happy to work with the local “Poconos Region” Property Owners Association to offer a private well water screening test for the residents drinking water.  For the 2016 program, a total of 16 residents participated in the program and for this program water testing was offered at two different tiers.  The basic tier provide general information related to the bacterial quality of the water and level of nitrate, iron, and total hardness.  The advanced tier provided testing for trace metals such as arsenic, copper, lead, zinc, and more comprehensive analysis of the overall quality of the water.  The following is a summary of the results:

2 samples were positive for total coliform bacteria, but no samples were positive for E. coli.;

1 sample exceeded the drinking water standard for lead and 5 other samples had detectable levels of lead in the water;

13 of the 16 samples contained detectable levels of nitrate, but at no point did the level exceed or approach the drinking water standard of 10 mg/L;

1 sample had elevated levels of manganese, but 3 had detectable levels of manganese in the water; and

15 of the 16 samples were considered slightly to corrosive to metal piping and 1 sample was considered very corrosive to metal piping.

The pH of the water ranged for 6.2 to 7.5 and only two samples had a pH that was less than the recommended drinking water standard of 6.5.  These samples were associated with water that had detectable levels of lead, but not the highest level of lead.  The sample with the highest level of lead appeared to be a sample collected at the kitchen sink after the water had been treated with a water softener.

From this snapshot, we learned the following:

  1. There appears to be a 13 % probability that a private well may contain total coliform bacteria.
  2. The water produced from the aquifer tends to be slightly corrosive and have total hardness that ranges from 30 to 150 mg/L.
  3. The groundwater does not appear to have elevated levels of nitrate.
  4. The groundwater does not appear to have E. coli. bacteria.
  5. Lead was detected in some water samples, but the occurrence in the well water is related to the corrosiveness of the water, type of water treatment, and type of plumbing fixtures in the home and not the groundwater aquifer.
  6. Homeowners that reported problems with sulfur odor or black particles were the same homeowners that had elevated or detectable level of manganese.
  7. If you are considering the use of a water softener, please consider the type of household plumbing and it may be necessary to install a neutralizing filter.

Based on these results, we recommend that all private well owners conduct an annual water quality test.  To facilitate this effort, the Keystone Clean Water Team offers an online mail order informational water testing program for private well owners throughout the USA and we offer our Know Your H20? Free Phone App. To learn about our mail order program, please visit us at http://www.water-research.net or http://www.knowyourh20.us.   If you have any questions, please call or email 570-335-1947 or bfenviro@ptd.net.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Mr. Brian Oram, PG

 

Understanding the Health Risks of Private Well Ownership

Understanding the Health Risks of Private Well Ownership
Guest blogger / writer – Julie Bowen <julie@palatino.org>

As a country, we are proud of our reputation for having the safest and cleanest drinking water in the world. However drinking water that is procured from privately owned wells is not regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency or many state agencies, meaning that the owners of those wells are responsible for ensuring that their water is safe and drinkable. Water from private wells tastes crisp and refreshing, and it can be a wonderful gift to own your own water source. It is also important to acknowledge that many residents living in rural areas have no choice but to procure their water from private wells or cisterns.  However, regardless of the reasons that their water is sourced from private wells, it is essential that private well owners are aware of the health risks involved in private well ownership as well as the myriad of benefits that they can obtain.  

The Risks of Water Contamination

Drinking water from wells can be contaminated in a variety of different ways:  either due to naturally occurring chemicals and minerals, the land use and farming practices in the area surrounding the well, and a malfunction of the wastewater treatment systems operating on the well itself. As a result of this, there are a wide range of illnesses that can be contracted via drinking contaminated well water. These can range from short-term gastrointestinal and stomach illnesses that includes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to more severe long term illnesses such as reproductive problems, neurological disorders, and other chronic illnesses.  Death by drinking water is not common, but it has happened.  Individuals with compromised immune systems, as well as children, pregnant women, and elderly people, are more vulnerable to the effects of certain contaminates and should be especially vigilant about the quality of their privately owned drinking water.

Two of the parasitic illnesses private well owners should be most aware of are Hepatitis A and Giardia (which is the parasite that causes the illness giardiasis, a common cause of diarrhea). Giardiasis is a relatively short lived condition, that is caused by water becoming contaminated by either mammalian or human feces. The parasite itself is resistant to basic chlorination, meaning that it tends to be particularly resistant to water treatment methods, however once infected most individuals have overcome the illness in approximately 7 days. More deadly are the risks posed by the liver condition hepatitis A, which is a highly contagious illness that is also contracted via the fecal oral route, due to water contaminated by infected feces.  Hepatitis A is a self-limited disease that does not result in chronic infection, but the symptoms can be severe and pose a particular risk to vulnerable individuals.

Taking the Appropriate Precautions                      

Because of the risks of being exposed to contaminated drinking water, it is recommended that in addition to regularly checking the quality of your drinking water, and taking the necessary precautions to ensure it avoids contamination, private home owners also secure comprehensive health insurance.  This will help them to ensure that they are fully protected in the unlikely instance that something should go wrong with their water supply, and they should contract one of the myriad of illnesses listed above.                          

The Keystone Clean Water Team (KCWT) is committed to ensuring that home owners with responsibility for private wells are given the support, the information, and the technology that they need to ensure that their well based drinking water is as clean and as safe as possible. The quality of well water should be tested at least three times a year, and the well itself should be regularly repaired and maintained to protect the water that is inside. When it comes to modern well technology, knowledge is power, so it is important to be as informed as possible about what is happening inside your well, and well as any possible risks that you face. The process involved in maintaining healthy well water can seem complicated, and the language involved in the process unnecessarily convoluted, which is why The Keystone Clean Water Team can help homeowners interpret their test results and ensure their water is as safe as it can be.

A few thoughts from the KCWT:

  1. When people say may water taste great and looks great – I have no problem – 50% of the time they have a problem that can make them sick.
  2. Of these individuals, 50% of the time the problem can be eliminated for a few hundred dollars.
  3. Some recent work on lead in drinking water found that 2 out of 3 private well samples had elevated lead; whereas only 1 out of 10 city water samples had a lead issue.  Testing your well water quality is important, but you must understand our risks.
  4. Blood lead testing is important for kids – get it done if you are living an older community that has or had historic industrialization.

A few suggestions:

  1. Download our free phone App.
  2. Get Your Water Tested (Portion of the Proceeds Help the KCWT)
  3. Get a Custom Neighborhood Hazard Report
  4. Order the Private Well Owner Educational Guide

 

For the New or Future Water Well Owner Homebuyer in Pennsylvania

Welcome to Pennsylvania and Welcome to Managing Your Own Small Water Company

In Pennsylvania,  there are generally no specific construction standards for private wells and there is only some general guidance with respect to well placement and construction.  Further, private well water is not regulated by the EPA or PADEP and therefore it is up to YOU to check your water to ensure that the well produces good clean and adequate water.    This is only a short summary of the information.  If you are interested we offer a Private Well Owner Training Course that can be offered as a Workshop for Your Community, Association, or other Organization.

There are a number of steps to this process and well will break them down as follows:

Well Placement
Well Construction
Well Testing (Yield and Quality)
Well Maintenance
Annual Water Testing

Well Placement
In general, the primary guidance with to water well placement in Pennsylvania is that a water well should be 100 feet from a septic system (regulated), 50 feet from a septic tank (regulated), 10 feet from a sewer line under pressure (regulated), and 10 feet from a property line. To be honest, these isolation distance do not consider impacts from other natural conditions or activities.  In general, we  would recommend the following:

1. If possible, the private well owner should control all activities within a 50 to  100 foot radius of the wellhead, i.e.., top of the water well. These activities should include: use of pesticides and herbicides, storage of toxic or hazardous chemicals, storage or management of manure and other waste, diversion of surface water and runoff, overuse of the area by grazing animals, location of burrow pits, burn pipes, rubbish storage, or storage of used cars or other items that may contain antifreeze, oils, and greases.
2. Well casing should extend at least 12 inches above grade.
3. Well should be fitted with a sanitary well cap that has some form of venting.
4. The well should be located at least 10 feet from a property line.

Other suggested isolation distances

Delineated wetlands or floodplains (25 feet)- with top of casing 3 feet above flood elevation.
Surface waters (25 feet) Storm water Systems (25 feet)
BioInfiltration Stormwater Systems (50 feet +)
Spray Irrigation/ Septage Disposal (100 feet+)
Sinkholes and Closed Depressions (100 feet +)
Farm silos / manure storage (200 feet) Septic Systems (100 feet)
Septic Tanks/Holding Tanks (50 feet)
Chemical Storage/Preparation Area (300 feet)

Well Construction

1. Prefer the use of steel casing that extends at least 15 feet to 20 feet into firm bedrock or 60 feet below ground, whichever is greater.
2. Casing should be of  adequate wall thickness to deal with corrosion and stress – 19lb casing.
3. The base of the casing should contain a driveshoe on the bottom of the casing and casing centralized in the borehole.
4. Wells drilled by a licensed well driller using only potable water as the drilling fluid.
5. Casing should be double circumferential welded or threaded casing
6. Well caps should be sanitary well caps that are properly vented.
7. Annular space should have a grout layer that is at least 1.5 inches thick.
8. Pitless adapters should be used over well pits.

Well Testing (Yield and Quality)

After the well is drilled, the well should be developed using surging, air-lift, or pumping the well.  This is done to clean out the well cuttings and improve yield.  In some cases, this needs to be done to improve the efficiency of the borehole. If the well yield is low, some well drillers will hydrofrac the well. If you are going to hydrofrac a water well, we recommend zone hydraulic fracturing to isolate the deeper potential water-bearing zones.   After the well development has been completed, a shock wellbore disinfection should be conducted.  The well should be allowed to fully recover and a minimum 2-hour yield test is recommend.  After the yield testing, the well should be shock disinfected.  For information on shock disinfection – we recommend visiting Water-Research Center.   The well yield data should include the static water level (water level before pumping), maximum dynamic water level (maximum depth to water during pumping), pumping rate, and length of the pumping test.  This data should be included on the well log and the specific capacity of the well should be reported.  The specific capacity is the rate of yield or gallons per minute per foot of drawdown.  The drawdown is the difference between the static and dynamic water level measurement. 

Before the end of the yield testing, it is recommended that a general water quality analysis of the well be conducted.  This testing should include bacterial quality, general water quality, and specific parameters that are known problems for your region.  Do not rely on a free water analysis or a basic water quality screening down by the well driller.  This should be either information or certified testing conducted by a laboratory.  For information on this type of testing, please contact the Keystone Clean Water Team or the Water-Research Center.   The initial water quality testing data should be reviewed and evaluated.  The first well or city water quality test should be a comprehensive water quality check.  If you are want informational water testing, we would recommend either the Well Water Check or the City Water Check Option. This evaluation should include the need for any further action to improve the well security, continue with well development, or add equipment to improve well water quality.  In some cases, water treatment systems are installed as an additional barrier or layer of protection.  In many cases, the only type of additional treatment that is needed is a whole-house particle filter and a sanitary well cap.  For information on Do-it-Yourself Water Treatment Systems.

Well and System Maintenance

At a minimum, the well water system should go through an annual inspection.  This inspection could be associated with the annual water quality test or inspection of any water treatment systems.  During this evaluation, the aesthetic quality of the water should be evaluated and some basic field water quality screening should be conducted.   For the field water screening, it is possible this can be done using a number of low-cost meters or an informational water quality screening test.

Annual Water Testing

Depending on the results of the initial evaluation, the results should be evaluated to determine what are the water quality parameters that should be monitored to help track the general water quality of the well.  If a water treatment system was installed, the annual water quality evaluation should include the performance of the water treatment system.  If you need help with determining what you need, WE can Help – Here is a partial listing of the informational water screening tests !  The Keystone Clean Water Team can provide guidance on the selection of water quality parameters, review water quality data, and make recommendations on the water quality parameters.  At a minimum, the Keystone Clean Water Team offers a Health Screen Test (only $ 50 if you have the sample bottles (video)) and testing includes bacteria, pH, conductivity, iron, manganese (if suspected), nitrate, total dissolved solids, total hardness, and alkalinity (Health Screen Test Order Form).    If you are interested, you may want to obtain a copy of our Educational Booklet and Brochure.

To Review a Number of our Case Studies – Common Private Well Problems and Fixes.

Everything we do began with an idea.

We have offered “Free” Assistance to this effort, but if you are a private well owner that needs assistance we are happy to help.

We realize your time is precious and the world is hectic. CCGG’s volunteers do only what they’re comfortable with. It can be a little or a lot.  Get YOUR WATER Tested – Discounted Screening Tests !

For more information, please go to CCGG’s About Page or contact us.  Follow us on Twitter 

Keystone Clean Water Team is a 501(c)(3) IRS approved nonprofit, volunteer organization and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.    Unsolicited donations are appreciated (Helps us complete our mission), but we also do local educational workshops and local cellphone/small electronic recycling programs. If you would like to set up a program to help recycle cellphones at an event, business, or other organization.  Through our program we can recycle  cell phones, iPods, game systems, and small digital cameras.  If your interested, please contact us.

Help the Organization and Get Your Water Tested or Order the Private Well Owner Guide (proceeds benefit This Organization).  Keystone Clean Water Team!