Public water supply systems in urban centers follow strict United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. The regulations ensure that the water supplied to the public is safe and pathogen-free. Unfortunately, over 15 million US households who rely on well water aren’t protected by these laws. Well water is known to contain various harmful impurities, ranging from heavy metals to disease-causing pathogens. These impurities pose many dangers, which we have detailed in this guide.
How Does Well Water Get Contaminated?
Wells get their water from underground aquifers. When it rains, the excess rainwater seeps downwards and settles in the aquifers. As it seeps through, the water passes through rocks and other underground layers, where it may pick contaminants that cause various health problems.
For the last few decades, urbanization, industrialization, and harmful agricultural practices have risen. These developments have seen an increase in the number of contaminants that find their way to natural water sources. The most common environmental pollutants have been;
- Urban runoff
- Chemical fertilizers
- Industrial waste
- Poor farm waste disposal
- Landfill seepage
- Chemical spills
- Non-maintained sewers or septic tanks, among others
Apart from these contaminants from human activities, some naturally occurring ones also affect well water. Arsenic, copper, calcium, and radon are some of the common natural chemicals and minerals. Like their human-made counterparts, these impurities can cause profound health implications when ingested over time.
Common Well Water Contaminants and Their Dangers
Both natural and human-made activities contaminate water wells. Below we highlight the most common contaminants and their impact on human health.
Fluoride is present in many aquifers and eventually water wells. On a positive note, the substance helps in preventing tooth decay when used responsibly. But in this case, the fluoride found in well water is excess and can cause serious problems.
One good example is skeletal fluorosis, a problem that causes tenderness and pain in bones and joints. When taken excessively during tooth formation stages, fluoride can cause tooth discoloration, dental fluorosis, and skits.
Most organic chemicals are found in household, industrial, and agricultural products. Some examples are pharmaceuticals, inks, petroleum products, dyes, pesticides, disinfectants, paints, solvents, and sealants. These organic chemicals should be used with care and disposed of to the set environmental laws. Unfortunately, many people still discard them off carelessly on the ground. Rainwater washes them down to aquifers and wells. Later on, humans ingest the water, leading to various health complications like;
- Reproductive system disorders
- Kidneys diseases
- Circulatory system disorders
- Liver diseases
- Nervous system disorders
This is a collective term for viruses, bacteria, and parasites. These harmful organisms are found all over our environment but mostly in human and animal waste. Due to various reasons, these waters find their way into our well water and our bodies. Leaking sewers and septic tanks are some of the major contaminants. Consuming water that contains microorganisms causes infections and gastrointestinal diseases.
Industrial processes that don’t observe the laid-out safety standards can contaminate your well water. Mining operations, cement plants, petroleum refineries, and electronics manufacturers are the main culprits. Others include municipal waste, plumbing lines, and natural mineral deposits. Some examples of heavy metals include;
- Selenium and many more
The heavy metals come into contact with well water through seepage and groundwater runoff. Humans who consume water with these metals might suffer from;
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Intestinal disorders
- Cancer among other diseases
Nitrate And Nitrite
Human waste, animal waste, and fertilizers produce nitrate and nitrite. Nitrates contaminate wells through surface water seepage, runoff, and groundwater movement. When ingested, nitrates turn into nitrites and can cause “Blue baby syndrome” in babies. Also called methemoglobinemia, the problem occurs when the body is unable to carry oxygen. The affected baby has shortness of breath, bluish skin color. The risk of sudden death is high in babies below six months of age.
These are radioactive forms of elements like uranium and radium. They are mainly released into the environment from nuclear power plants, uranium, and coal mines or mills. They also occur naturally in the ground in some areas and can contaminate groundwater. Consumption of water with radionuclides causes cancer and kidney problems.
From the above information, we have learned that well water poses many dangers to the consumer. You should test your well water from time to time to get a clear picture of the contaminants inside. This way, you can take the necessary precautions. Among the steps you can take is installing a whole home water filtration system.