Owning A Well
Your drinking water is one of the most valuable things on your yard site. Protecting it should be of the utmost priority, yet it is often the last thing that crosses a person’s mind. There are a few simple things a person can do that make a world of difference to protect their well and its water. Begin by choosing the right location, then proceed to care for your well properly, and this valuable resource will last you more than a lifetime.
The single most important part of any water well that you have control of is its location. Begin by thinking of where your waste system will be located. Laws are in place that must be followed and indicate minimum distance between your well and human and/or animal waste. (Human waste includes septic tank, sewer field, pump out, lagoon, etc. and animal waste includes corrals, feed yards, waste piles, etc.).
Whether it’s an existing yard site or a new one, ensure you look at the big picture. The lay of the land should be evaluated, considering runoff as well as high and low areas. Evaluate where the high water mark is if you are located close to a body of water, such as a lake, slough, pond, or the like. Your goal is to keep surface water from getting into or accumulating around your well. Aim to place your well at the highest elevation and as far away from human and animal waste as reasonably possible. Human and animal waste carry E-coli bacteria and many other potentially deadly diseases and bacteria. The cost of trenching to separate your well from these contaminants is very affordable compared to the problems associated with contamination, and potential risk to the health of you and your family members.
Maintaining Your Well
The Well Casing Height above Ground
This is a very important part of keeping a well contaminant-free. Your completed water well should be, at minimum, two feet above the ground. This allows enough height to keep surface water out from winter thaw, and more importantly, is high enough to deter mice and any other vermin from gaining access to the well. When a well is cut off at or below ground level (like in a well pit) it allows access for contaminants. We recommend that you have your well extended above ground to eliminate the chances of contaminating your drinking water source. This is due to the fact that surface water seeping into your well pit can be contaminated with anything that has been spilt within your yard, as well as the fact that your trenching system is interconnected.
The Well Cap and Wire Conduit
These areas require attention regularly. The well cap must be a tight fit on your well, and the bolts fastened in order to prevent it from coming off. The wire conduit (or wire guard) also needs to fit correctly, and have a good seal between it and the well cap. The rule of thumb is that if you can see wires or any gap you must correct it immediately. A gap between your well cap and wire conduit can be the most common entry point of mice and vermin to your well, so taking these simple steps is the best way to protect it through the years. If your well cap gets broken or lost, please contact any water well contractor. They will have access to the proper sealing cap for your well. Be sure to keep an eye out for holes, corrosion, and cracks in the well casing. All wells done by McAllister Drilling will have a steel casing protector on them, but every once in a while they are removed and not replaced. If this occurs, the plastic casing can get brittle with time and sun exposure, and can be damaged very easily. Whether the casing is steel or plastic, it should be periodically cleaned and painted to prevent sun damage or rusting.
All wells should be left with enough room to allow any routine maintenance and well disinfecting. A 10 foot (minimum) radius area should be left all around your well and the grass should be well maintained. This will allow you easy visual inspection and observance of your well cap. In addition, wishing wells, 45 gallon drums, 5 gallon pails and other similar vessels are not recommended. They allow somewhere for mice and vermin to live.
Dealing With Old Wells
Old wells are a huge liability to the property owner and must be properly sealed and recorded. Most unused wells are discovered when someone is doing yard clean up or dirt work and happen upon them. Take the time to contact a licensed water well contractor, who will follow the correct procedure and utilize the right materials to abandon the well properly. The well might need to be cleaned out first, disinfected and then abandoned with the proper technique and material. In addition, there is critical documentation that needs to be filled out and the location of the well needs to be classified in case there are issues in the future.
The government offers several grants to assist in the cost of abandoning old wells. Typically, a well file is kept in a government database. In the case of an old well, these files need to be signed off on by a Journeyman driller in order to remove liability from the property owner. It is the property owner’s responsibility to manage their wells, regardless of their age and usage.
Once a well is contaminated, it is very difficult if not impossible to ensure the purity of the water supply. If chemicals enter the water zone it could be very costly to the well owner in trying to remediate the problem. Contaminants come in many forms, including surface water, farm chemicals, fuels, and the like.
In the past, another cause of contamination has been hydrants installed in the well. There is a possibility of contaminants syphoning back into the well, thus the practice has been outlawed.
In order to prevent contaminants from entering your water supply, we recommend that you do not store chemicals near your water well, under any circumstance. Determine a separate space for chemicals, fuels, and other possible contaminants that is far away from your water well. This prevents the chance of cross-contamination or accidental spillage.
Treating your water well is part of a maintenance routine and if done right, can last for years. How do you know if you should consider a disinfection treatment? Here are a few ways you can detect a possible bacteria issue in your system, and may need to explore treatment:
- SMELL AND TASTE: If you smell an odour similar to rotten eggs, or if your water smells like it is stale, these are tell-tale signs that your system is getting a high concentration of coliform or iron bacteria, and should be treated accordingly. These are examples of naturally occurring bacteria that can be found in almost everything, and are easily killed with the proper treatment.
- LOOK: Begin by lifting off the back of your toilet lid, and looking inside. If there is a coating of slime inside, that is usually a reliable indication that you need to treat your system. Be sure not to mistake staining with slime.
- TEST: There is a bacteria test that can be easily conducted, which will identify the presence of coliform, iron bacteria and E coli. If bacteria is discovered, often a system treatment can be undertaken and it will solve the issue. Connect with us here at McAllister Drilling and we’ll be happy to work with you to treat your specific water well and system.
- Every water well (drilled well, bored well, etc.) is different. Therefore, each well has certain things to watch out for, and certain things that should never be done. Start by looking at the depth of your well, and how deep your pump is set. Also, learn the makeup of your casing, as you’ll need to use a certain method for cleaning so as not to cause damage.
- Doing a treatment the right way should take care of your problem for a long period of time. When conducting a treatment, care must be taken and clean rubber gloves should be worn to prevent cross-contamination. If treatment is done incorrectly, it may cause you to re-treat your system more often because you are not getting a full kill on your bacteria. It’s important to note that you should not need to continuously add chemicals to your well or put a treatment system in to inject chemicals into your drinking water. Treating your water well with continuous chemicals not only costs more in the long run (time and money) but over time can do a lot of damage to your well and pumping system.
- Only liquids should be put down water wells. Ensure they’re poured down the tube that is located below your pitless adapter. Products such as tablets, pellets, and granular powder should never be dropped down a well, as it will coat and corrode your casing and drop pipe. Over time, the leftover solid product can become built up, locking the pump in the well. If this happens it is very difficult to remove your pump. In some extreme cases the pump doesn’t come out and the well will need to be replaced entirely.