Monday, February 15, 2016

Prince William Well Water 2012-2015

With the “poisoned” water in Flint, Michigan all over the news, I have been thinking about the safety of my water supply. Like 1,500,000 Virginians I drink water from a private well and it is my responsibility to make sure my water is safe to drink.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Office holds an annual drinking water clinic for well owners in Prince William and Loudoun Counties. Water samples will be analyzed for 14 chemical and bacteriological contaminants: iron, manganese, nitrate, lead, arsenic, fluoride, sulfate, pH, total dissolved solids, hardness, sodium, copper, total coliform bacteria and E. Coli bacteria.

Over the past 3 years 144 well water samples analyzed in Prince William County’s annual water clinic. The vast majority (over 80%) of wells were reported to be drilled wells, though 11% of residents did not know the type of well they had. The well owners reported that well depth ranged from 20 to 2,000 feet and well age: 1 to 57 years, though I question whether anyone really had a private well that was 2,000 feet deep- I think the person probably meant 200. Sixty nine percent of participants reported have some sort of treatment system on their well. Most were sediment filters and water softeners.

The most common contaminants found in the household water wells in Prince William County were sodium, coliform bacteria, low pH (below 6.5), elevated hardness and lead. The presence of total coliform bacteria is often an indication that surface water is entering the well and other more harmful microorganisms may be present. Total coliform bacteria were found in 35% of the Prince William county wells sampled. E. Coli bacteria were found in 7% of the wells tested. E. Coli is a sign that human or animal waste is entering the water supply and is most likely an indication that your well has been impacted by a nearby septic system and you are drinking water with sewage in it. Sodium above 20 mg/L was found in 40% of the samples. This sodium is most likely from water softeners which use a salt solution to soften the water rather than from salt water intrusion. Hard water is high in calcium and magnesium, and was found in 22% of the Prince William wells tested. Low pH water occurs naturally in parts of Virginia and appeared in 16% of the well samples. Although not a concern in and of itself, low pH water can cause water to become corrosive and cause metals such as copper and lead to leach  from older plumbing systems and plumbing fixtures. Lead above the 0.015 mg/L safe drinking water act level was  found in 19% of the first draw samples. Don’t you want to join us to have your well tested?

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