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How Did Your Well Become Contaminated?

Does Your Well Driller Practice Safe Sex?


James P McMahon

If your water source is a well, have you ever wondered what all people with wells share in common?

I provide water treatment equipment to people across the US who want healthy water. I talk to customers with wells all the time. I tell them that wells can be a great source of water. In order to find out for sure we have to test the water and determine what's in it. That enables me to prescribe the appropriate treatments.

As a treatment specialist, I tend to get the calls that local companies can't handle or haven't handled appropriately. I am continually amazed by the number of calls I receive from people with bacteria - E Coli, sulfur bacteria producing hydrogen sulfide gas, or iron bacteria. I was talking to a customer today that has E Coli bacteria in her well. That well is 300 feet deep. I have to wonder how that colony of E Coli ever managed to find its way down there. I guess one possibility is that a local cow arranged its hind end directly over an unsecured well head. Hey, it could happen.

Let's see….another possibility is that she's is not using backflow preventers and left the hose lying around, providing a pathway from waste on the ground directly to the well. Even more likely is the possibility that there's a crack in the well casing that provides a path directly from ground level.


Another possibility is that people don't treat their septic tanks with bacteria to digest the waste (I use Roebic K-37) and have a malfunctioning septic field that's leaching waste products and bacteria into the groundwater. I have to chuckle a little bit when people tell me that's not possible because the septic is on one side of the house and the well is on the other. Clearly people don't have a clear picture of what their water source looks like.


But what everyone whose water is supplied by a well has in common is a well driller. The most likely source of contamination of your well is the driller who dug it for you. How would the well driller contaminate a well? By using the same drill he used the day before and the day before that. Repeated penetration of varying water sources can spread contamination from a single contaminated source to every well dug by that driller. In this way, the process of well drilling is precisely the same as unprotected sex. Or, perhaps the well driller laid the drill down on the lawn and there were remnants of dog dung in the grass.


In those states where new wells are regulated the drillers are required to treat their equipment before drilling a new well. Of course, they may still leave equipment lying on the ground before and during drilling, use pipe in the well casing that's never been treated, and always have to drill through initial layers of dirt that will contain populations of bacteria.


In an apparent acknowledgment of the unsavory aspects of this practice, most well drillers dump gallons of Clorox® down a new well in an effort to 'sanitize; it. I just have to wonder how this ever got started. I apologize if you feel I'm being crass, but this seems like a guy thing to me.


Many professional drillers do sanitize the instrument of their trade between jobs. However, they could be using non-toxic treatments to sanitize new wells. How about another equally powerful anti-bacterial oxidant instead of bleach, like 35% hydrogen peroxide? That would be equally effective and doesn't produce the array of carcinogenic byproducts produced when chlorine interacts with organics.


Or, better yet, ever thought of ….vinegar? One of the most powerful antibacterials in existence, vinegar is all natural. Frankly, local health departments don't help matters much because they often suggest or even require the bleach treatment. Yet hydrogen peroxide or vinegar will also work.


Many traditional well drilling practices are rude, antiquated, and inappropriate. Good business is based on service. If well drillers intend to provide good service then they could start with clean tools and follow up with healthy treatments.


In many states new well digging is regulated. Before the government steps in and regulates the industry even further, and eventually they will, well drillers themselves can take steps to practice their trade in line with the public's increasing awareness of health and wellness.


Does your well driller practice safe sex? Before you have a well drilled perhaps you'd best ask him if he sanitizes his tool between jobs.




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Jim McMahon

James P McMahon Ecologist

"What's in YOUR Water?"

To view my experience and credentials:

JPM Biography


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