Residential well safety and water delivery system safety
Generally, there are three health concerns with well safety:
- Bacteriological – The presence or activities of insects, animals, plant root intrusion, well casing or delivery system deterioration or exposure, and faucet contamination can contribute to contamination making drinking water unsafe for human consumption. Any amount of Coliform bacteria present in drinking water is considered unsafe to drink and may cause stomach, intestinal, and other health problems.
- Nitrates – Usually occur as a result of agricultural fertilizer and animal waste that has been transported through irrigation or run-off into the water table or well system. Nitrates can cause nausea and intestinal problems in humans.
- Arsenic – Arsenic levels may change through the year as the water tables change. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in water, but is a poison and considered by the State of California to be unsafe in any quantity. The current state reporting requirement is 10 ppb (parts per billion/micrograms per liter).
Older residential plumbing (usually before 1986) may contain quantities of lead used to solder pipes or fittings in faucets. Lead is a known health risk, to young children and adults, when it has leached into drinking water. Other sources of residential exposure are breathing dust from sanding or disturbing old paint. Lead in water is a common test used to detect contamination in older residences.
Municipal water systems generally monitor water quality on a regular basis to meet regulatory requirements and provide their residential subscribers clean, safe water to drink. Homeowners and tenants using well water should be aware of the concerns noted above. Additionally, there may be instances where previous land use or neighboring land use raise concerns about well water quality. In these situations, it may be justified to expand the testing to alleviate concerns beyond the basics already discussed. B & R Labs can advise and recommend additional testing as needed.