2009-03-07 / News

How to protect ground water

WESTERVILLE - Whether you own a water well or not, every person can do something to protect ground water and reduce risks to the water supply, the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) said today in recognizing National Ground Water Awareness Week, March 8-14.

Ground water makes up more than 90 percent of the available fresh water in the United States and the world. Nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population relies on ground water for its drinking water supply. Ground water also feeds most surface water bodies such as rivers and lakes.

Here are some steps any person can take to help protect ground water and reduce risks to the water supply, particularly if you are the owner of a household water well.

Ground water protection: First, locate any abandoned wells on your property. Contact a qualified water well system contractor to determine whether the abandoned well has been properly decommissioned. An improperly abandoned well can be a direct pathway for contamination into the aquifer. Never dispose of any substance down an abandoned well.

If the abandoned well has not been properly decommissioned, always use a qualified water well system contractor to do so. This requires special techniques, equipment, and materials.

Second, if you have a septic system, have it checked regularly by a qualified septic system contractor. A failing septic system may present a contamination threat to the ground water.

Third, properly use, store, and dispose of hazardous household substances. Hazardous household substances include, but are not limited to:

* Gasoline and oil * Paints and paint thinner * Fertilizers * Weed killers * Pesticides

* Cleaning products.

Proper use means always following the manufacturer's instructions. Do not over apply fertilizers, pesticides, and weed killers. Also, do not apply or mix such substances close to the wellhead.

Proper storage of hazardous household substances means keeping them in sealed containers in a secure place.

Proper disposal of hazardous household substances means do not dump them on the ground, or pour them down the drain, or flush them down the toilet. Instead, contact local waste authorities about proper disposal.

Proper well location and construction: Next, if you're planning to construct a water well, work with a water well system contractor or hydrogeologist to determine the best location for the well. Then use a qualified water well system contractor, who should be familiar with state and local well construction codes including those pertaining to separation distances from potential contamination sources.

Regular well system maintenance: If you have an existing well, get an annual well system maintenance checkup to reduce risks to your water supply and prevent costly and inconvenient breakdowns. An inspection should check the well's:

* Equipment to determine if it is sanitary and meets local codes

* Flow rate * Water level * Pump performance * Pressure tank

* Pressure switch contacts.

A clear, concise, written report should be provided following the checkup explaining the results and any recommendations for service.

Also, every well owner should periodically check the well cover or cap, and the well casing above the ground to make sure they are in good shape.

Water testing and treatment: One of a well owner's most important responsibilities is to regularly test the water. First, determine if your well is clean. A dirty well, for instance one with accumulated sediment or debris in the bottom, can create an environment suitable to bacterial growth and impair effective disinfection. A qualified water well system contractor can determine if your water well system needs cleaning.

Next, well owners should test annually for bacteria, nitrates, and anything of local concern. The water should be tested more frequently if there is:

* Any change in the water's taste, odor, or appearance

* A problem such as a broken well cap or a new contamination source

* A family member or houseguest who has recurrent incidents of gastrointestinal illness

* A pregnant woman or infant living in the home

* A dangerous contaminant shows up in your neighbors' water

For more information about ground water and wells, visit www. wellowner.org.

Return to top