So, you have a well. What really dose that mean? Basically, you have a pipe in the ground that you will be able to draw water from with a pump, at least that is the most common modern day well being installed today. In the old days people would dig wells by hand and they could be as large as three feet in diameter. A bucket would be tossed or lowered down to fetch water. These days wells have changed a bit. A company which, is usually required to be a licensed contractor will bring out a big truck which, will drill a whole in the ground to insert a pipe; this, will become the well or a pipe is driven or pounded into the ground, to become the well. A well can be 2, 4, 6 or even larger inches in diameter.
Typical residential water wells will be 2 - 4 inches while, commercial or industrial applications may call for 4 inches and higher. Some contractors use galvanized pipe, some use PVC pipe and some use cast iron. PVC pipe will become brittle over time and the glue used to connect the sections of the pipe together may become compromised. PVC is an economical solution for use as a water well. Some people have reported getting up to 20 years service life out of their PVC constructed well. Cast iron pipes will start rust away if, they are not coated with a protectant. Galvanized iron pipes have a coating of zinc on the outside of the pipe which, will protect the metal for a while but, will eventually, start to have rust problems. All pipes have a life span; of which, is determined by the electrolytic potential of the soil it is in, the pH of the soils and the salinity level of the soil can also have effects.
When you're well was first installed, you may have had awesome water, it may have contained some hardness but, overall the water was nice and clear. Over time you may be getting rust staining on you're tubs, sinks and even you're cloths may be turning a dingy brown color and no matter how much bleach you use, you're whites just don't come out white. Some people on well water will have iron in the water from the day the well was installed, it happens. There are areas of the United States that do contain iron deposits that can be pulled in with the water and there is a method to remove the iron from the water which, is generally done by precipitating the iron so it can be filtered out. However, if you did not have any issues with iron or rusty water when you're well was first installed, you can pretty much bet, the well pipe is starting to corrode away. Keeping track of you're well's condition is very important in knowing the overall health of the well by having someone test your water once a year. This is really not something you would want to do yourself because, whatever test chemicals you purchased to do all the tests, would be ineffective at giving precise measurements after aging a year. It is always best to have a person that dose a lot of water tests which, will always have fresh testing supplies on hand. Testing every year is the maximum length of time between water tests as recommended by most water authorities such as the EPA and Departments of Health.
Modern day wells are safe and provide water that is naturally filtered, cool, and pure, if installed and cared for properly. Wells can provide many years of safe and affordable water. Today, an estimated 21 million homes are currently on well provided water. Testing the water quality annually is a key factor in maintaining safe water. It is also recommended to have the well system and its components regularly inspected by a professional well contractor.
Recommended Homeowner Maintenance
It is important when maintaining your well to annually check the water and test it for bacteria. If you notice a change in the taste, odor, or appearance of your water supply, it is crucial that you check the water to ensure safety. Always keep any hazardous chemicals, paint, fertilizer, pesticides, or motor oil a great distance away from your well. Take extra care when you mow or work around the surrounding well area. It is not recommended to pile leaves, snow, or other material around the area surrounding the well.
- Test your well water one to two times a year.
- Have the well system, including the pump, storage tank, pipes and valves, and water flow, inspected every 5 years.
- Test after any flooding in or near the well, to determine if flood water carried bacteria or other contaminants into the well system.
- Consider a vermin-proof well cap that will keep bugs out if it is an open well.
- White vinegar is a great disinfect that is now being used for some well systems.
- There is such a thing as too much chlorine. You can actually put too much chlorine in your well if it needs to be disinfected and it can cause more problems than you already have. More chlorine is not always better.
- Place potential contaminants near your well or up-gradient of your well.
- Allow back-siphonage. When mixing pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals, don’t put the hose inside the tank or container; always leave an air gap.
- Use or store hazardous chemicals, such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides, motor oil, gas, weed killer and other pollutants near the well.
When in need of a new well, make sure the person is a licensed contractor with many years of experience. It is also important to have a contractor that is familiar with the ground the well is being installed in. An experienced well contractor will know many things that could save you a lot of money in the end. Here are some good questions you should always ask a well contractor before signing to have the work done.
1. Are you licensed and insured?
Well drillers are required to be licensed and display a 4x6 inch decal on both sides of their drilling equipment or service trucks in many states. Reputable well drillers also carry insurance. Make sure to ask for proof of both before any work begins.
2. Are they reputable?
Ask your perspective well driller if they have any references. Ask your friends and neighbors about the company and the kind of work they’ve done in the past. Typically, if a well company has been in business for decades, they generally have the means to deliver quality work that has helped them attract new customers through the years.
3. What’s covered in the contract?
When hiring a well drilling company, there should be an itemized list of the work items and cost of the service. This contract should cover the type of well to be drilled, an estimate of cost, including man-hours, and any guarantees on the work performed.
4. What are my water needs?
Talk to the well driller about the size of your home, number of family members and if there will be any other uses on your property that will require additional water, such as farming, housing large animals, pools or running a small business.
Most homes require a well water of roughly 6 gallons of water per minute, but that rate could be higher depending on your needs.
5. What type of well should I install?
Ask about pipe types and if stainless steal casings would be best in the area you are located.
6. Can I get enough water from my well?
Once your water needs are established, the well driller should talk to you about the potential output of your new well. Using geological information, as well as water yield data from wells in your surrounding area, your well driller should be able to give you an educated estimate as to whether a well on your lot will meet your water needs.
7. What do I have to do to prepare the lot for my well?
If you are constructing a new home, you may need to do substantial work to the lot before a well drilling service can do their job. Clearing trees, leveling the surface site and building access roads to potential drilling spots are your responsibility. Make sure you review what is expected before a drilling appointment is set.
8. Where can I drill the well?
State and local laws and guidelines will largely determine where your well should be drilled. Well regulations stipulate certain setbacks from roads, property lines, wetlands, drain fields or septic systems and buildings. It makes sense to have the well relatively close to your home, but if the well must be placed a sizable distance from the house, you will need to talk to the well driller about making sure the well pump is large enough to keep water flowing over greater distances.
9. How are you going to drill it?
Before work begins, review the well drilling procedure with your contractor. When will the crew arrive? How long will the process take? What is the diameter of the well hole? What type of casing will be used? What kind of well screen will be used? How long is the well tested for proper flow? Will any follow-up testing be required?
10. How much will it cost?
With any large purchase, homeowners should get quotes from competing vendors. However, the lowest bid isn’t always going to deliver the best results. Choose those estimates which are reasonably priced. Then consider references from friends and former customers. Look into their reputation with builders and the community. How professional was the staff when you met for a consultation? Combining these considerations with price will help you find the well drilling company that’s right for you.
Once you have a well installed now what are you going to do to maintain it?
From the time a well is installed a clock starts. You will want that clock to run as long as it can and get the most life out of the well pipe that just got placed into the ground. There is not much you can do if you had a PVC well pipe installed; it will fail when it's time is up. Metal pipes on the other hand do have the ability to outlive PVC well pipes greatly.
So, how do you extend the life of a metal well pipe? Good question but, first you need to understand what has happened by putting a metal pipe into the ground and having some knowledge of electricity will help here but, if you are not electrically inclined this will still help you.
All metal has energy and the ground, with is particular salt content, is an excellent place to absorb it. The ground will actually take the energy from the pipe because the ground is the negative and positive energy will run to ground. As energy leaves the pipe, corrosion will occur at that point on the pipe and the pipe will become pitted until the pitting goes so deep, it creates a hole in the pipe allowing sand to be sucked in every time your pump turns on. Galvanized pipes have a coating of zinc which is there to protect the metal underneath. Once the zinc layer has been compromised and the metal underneath is exposed to ground, corrosion will start to occur at that point.
When a metal pipe is sunk into the ground in becomes an anode with an electrical potential. The electrical potential will run to ground. The trick to protecting the pipe is to get it's electrical potential to stop running to ground by reversing it and in order to do that, the pipe would have to become a cathode. In order for the pipe to become a cathode there would have to be an anode. The anode would have to be sacrificial to the makeup of the pipe and would have to be of a metal that would give off it's electrical potential at a higher rate than the pipe itself. Your basically needing to complete a galvanic cell which makes your well pipe a cathode. Think of the whole thing as being a battery.
In a battery you have a cathode, an anode and an electrolyte. In the case of your well pipe; your well pipe becomes the cathode, the ground is the electrolyte and you would need an anode of some type of metal that would give off it's energy at a higher rate than the well pipe cathode. The galvanized coating of the zinc was in effect, the anode for the pipe until it corroded away but, we do know that zinc is a good metal to use as a sacrificial anode. Magnesium is another more common metal to use as a sacrificial anode but, does not last as long as zinc however, magnesium is less expensive than zinc. In the galvanic cell you want the anode to give off it's energy (+), travel through the electrolyte (ground) and give it to the cathode (-) and since the well pipe has now become the cathode, it is receiving energy instead of loosing it to the ground. This method of protecting a well pipe is called cathodic protection.
Cathodic protection tests can be performed to tell if your well pipe is sitting in a cathodic state or an anodic state and through these tests, a determination can be made to conclude if any sacrificial anodes, employed to protect a pipe, need to be replaced. Sacrificial anodes have their own life span and need to be replaced or supplemented over time. The addition of sacrificial anodes to a well pipe can reduced the corrosion rate of the pipe or stop the corrosion of the pipe totally depending on the proper application and size or amount of anodic material used. A well pipe with cathodic protection could last indefinitely if, properly maintained and placed on the well pipe when it was first installed. While the cost of placing anodes may be out for 2" - 4" wells, business or commercial wells 4" and up would be cost effective.
You know a little more now than you did but, there is still more to know. You learned how to find a good well person and you learned how to protect a well and increase it's life span and maybe your water is really good at this point but, what if the water starts to get bad over time? You need to know what to look for and what to be aware of.
Let's say you put in a well and opted not to protect it with cathodic protection and your well has been in place for a few years and now you are seeing a difference in water quality which, is not as good as it was when the well was first put in. Since the well pipe has been in the ground for a while, if it is a metal well pipe, it has started to corrode. This corrosion can lead to a multitude of problems which could have been prevented by using cathodic protection. Rust stains are common when a well pipe is corroding. If you had rust stains from day one when the well was installed, you will continue to have rust stains until you deal with the rust through filtration. If you have had rust from day one, it means it is coming from the ground and cathodic protection will not eliminate the iron in the water but, certainly your well pipe corroding away is going to add to it.
When your metal well pipe is in an active state of corrosion, at some point you may develop iron bacteria. Iron bacteria are bacteria that derive the energy they need to live and multiply by oxidizing dissolved ferrous iron. The resulting ferric oxide is insoluble, and appears as brown gelatinous slime that will stain plumbing fixtures, and clothing or utensils washed with the water carrying it. They are known to grow and proliferate in waters containing as low as 0.1 mg/l of iron. However, at least 0.3 ppm of dissolved oxygen is needed to carry out oxidation and usually happens best at a shower head where the iron is precipitated from the water by being mixed with air thus staining the surfaces it comes into contact with.
Some areas in the United States have sulfur or some form of sulfate in the ground and can be a source of Hydrogen Sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) can occur in wells anywhere, and gives the water a characteristic "rotten egg" taste or odor. Hydrogen sulfide gas can result from a number of different sources and can occur naturally in groundwater. It can be produced by certain "sulfur bacteria" in the groundwater, in the well, or in the water distribution system. It can be produced also by sulfur bacteria or chemical reactions inside water heaters. In rare instances, it can result from pollution. The source of the gas is important when considering treatment options. It is a good idea to have the well tested for the standard sanitary tests of coliform bacteria and nitrate. Sulfur bacteria are not harmful, but hydrogen sulfide gas in the air can be hazardous at high levels. It is important to take steps to remove the gas from the water, or vent the gas to the atmosphere so that it will not collect in low-lying spaces, such as well pits, basements, or enclosed spaces, such as well houses. It is known that Hydrogen Sulfide gas can be formed by the deterioration of metal objects such as in a water heater that has a sacrificial anode and you will be able to smell the gas more on the hot water side and not on the cold side. Sulfur bacteria, like iron bacteria, produce a slime and can promote the growth of other bacteria, such as iron bacteria. The slime can clog wells, plumbing, filtration equipment and irrigation systems. Bacterial slime may be white, grey, black, or reddish brown if associated with iron bacteria. Hydrogen sulfide gas in water can cause black stains on silverware and plumbing fixtures. It can also corrode pipes and other metal components of the water distribution system. If you did not have any issues with hydrogen sulfide gas when your well was first put in, it may be a result of your metal well pipe corroding away.
Nitrates can become a problem with well pipe showing active corrosion and can have life threatening effects on babies, known as blue baby syndrome. Although any well can become contaminated by nitrates, shallow, poorly constructed, or improperly located wells are more susceptible to contamination. Nitrate levels in drinking water can also be an indicator of overall water quality. Elevated nitrate levels may suggest the possible presence of other contaminants such as disease-causing organisms, pesticides, or other inorganic and organic compounds that could cause health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of nitrate as nitrogen (NO3-N) at 10 mg/L for the safety of drinking water. Nitrate concentrations greater than approximately 10 to 15 mg/L (as NO3) are generally indicative of anthropogenic nitrate source. Nitrate levels at or above this level have been known to cause a potentially fatal blood disorder in infants under six months of age called methemoglobinemia or "blue-baby" syndrome; in which, there is a reduction in the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. The symptoms of blue-baby syndrome can be subtle and often confused with other illnesses. An infant with mild to moderate blue-baby syndrome may have diarrhea, vomiting, and/or be lethargic. In more serious cases, infants will start to show obvious symptoms of cyanosis: the skin, lips or nail beds may develop a slate-gray or bluish color and the infant could have trouble breathing. A sample of the infant’s blood can easily confirm a diagnosis of blue-baby syndrome. It is known; when a well pipe is in an anodic state and has the presence of hydrogen, nitrates can fluctuate.
As you can see cathodic protection can have some benefits to maintaining water quality as well as extend and maintain the life of your well and the water coming from it. Water testing is very important and should never be neglected! A periodic check of your system and keeping records of your past water tests is very helpful in diagnosing problems that may occur. We maintain all water tests on file and will make those records available to every customer to access through our web site 24 hours a day.
We here at Aquatek only wish for you're health to be the best it can be. We want you to be informed and not taken advantage of by those looking to, just make a buck. Always get a second opinion or even a third, we encourage it! We here at Aquatek go beyond trying to sell you something and attempt to always look into the main cause of the problem. Once the problem is located it is always best to deal with it at the source instead of trying to add a lot of filtration you may not need. We want our customers to be happy and we want our customers to think highly enough of us that they tell they're friends to call us when they need help with their water system. Give us a call anytime at 772-538-0284