Why Is Bacteria In My Well Water And What Can I Do About It?

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What is bacteria?

Bacteria is a living, single celled organism. The most common form in well water is Coliform and another more specific form, E. coli (Escherichia coli). Both of these forms are tested in well water regularly because the presense of either will make the water non-potable (unsafe to drink). State Law In Connecticut (DPH) states that there should be no bacteria present, no matter how much and if there is a presence, it is considered non-potable.

  • Coliform is a very basic, dormant form of bacteria. It is incubated (inside your stomach), where it combines with food ingredients ingested where is will cause a buildup of acid and gas. Which will lead to discomfort and pains in your abdomen.
  • E coli is a type of Coliform bacteria which is actually normal to be inside the human intestinal tract. Introducing the body to an uncommon strain, can promote diseases in the body, which is something you want to avoid.Why is bacteria in my well water?

It’s a naturally occurring organism, which often times finds its way into the well where it can lay dormant or grow. Coliform, is VERY common in wells because anything living (bugs, animals, plant debris, etc…), can carry the bacteria and find their way into your well.

Common Reasons It Gets Into Well Water:

  • Lack of usage/Unused Well. Too often we are getting calls about bacteria being in well ater after a house has been sitting dormant, while the house is on the market to be sold. Its very rare that you find an unused well water system without bacteria.
  • The well is located in an area where it is very easy to promote bacteria presence. An example of this would be, the well head is buried under the ground where ground water and bugs can easily enter the sealed well. The seals are put in and are very secure, but it is almost impossible to completely seal a well underground like that. People will often try to cover their exposed well cap with decorations or planters, which can create this same problem.
  • If the well head is above ground, the well cap, may not be securely placed or is may not have the proper seals. Older caps do not have great seals and may need to be replaced with a new cap, that is more secure with rubber seals.

How do I remove bacteria from my water?

  • It has always been recognized that chlorinating the well is the go-to fix for bacteria. While, yes, it does kill bacteria when it makes contact and it may work tempararly it is not the true permanent solution to the bacteria problem. About, 20% of the time, the bacteria will still be there after a chlorination is completed or will grow back in the future.
  • The best way to ensure the absence of bacteria is to use a whole house ultra-violet (UV) light sterilization This system will (with proper installation and maintenance), break down the cell wall of the organism and kills it. If you leave the well head buried, as long as the UV Light is on, you will not have bacteria problems in the house water. This is why I consider this to be the best/cost effective method to eliminating bacteria from your well water. Trying your best to secure the well head, is still best (change cap, bring pipe out of the ground, etc…), with the addition to the UV light.
  • There are other ways to eliminate bacteria in well water, but the two noted above are the most commonly used methods.

Obviously, choosing the right method for mitigation is ultimately decided by the homeowner. Since chlorination is cheaper to try, a person selling a home with the presence of bacteria will commonly choose to try chlorination before opting for the UV light system (which I do understand). But there is always the chance that a chlorination is just not going to work. It also takes some time to flush out the system and re-test (time is a factor during real-estate transactions). Sometimes, they have no choice, but to install a UV light system in the end.

My opinions on the subject is based on real life experiences in the field, I don’t not claim to have the ultimate answers to every problem but, there is always a solution. If you have any questions regarding bacteria and its presence in well water, please, do not hesitate to give me a call or send me an email to discuss your situation.

Til’ next time, wishing you WELL.

475-223-2330 (My phone number)

waterdoctormatt@gmail.com (My email)

Water Dr. LLC Contact Page

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About the Author:

BS Degree In Cell Biology Licensed Well Water Technician Certified Radon Tester and Mitigator 10+ years in Well Water Industry
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