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How do you find out if the water in a well is safe to drink?

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  • How do you find out if the water in a well is safe to drink?

    Yet another in a long line of what I'm sure will be a host of dumb farmette newbie questions. I just met my soon-to-be neighbors who know a lot more about my soon-to-be-farmette than I do, and they told me there is a well down by the second barn, but they have *heard* that the prior owner threw motor oil down it.
    The house is on city water, so that's not a problem, I was just thinking it would be rather awesome if the well water could be used for the barn so I wouldn't have to run pipes down there from the house...

    As far as I'm concerned, everything is just a rumor until it's proven not to be a rumor, so - how do I find out for sure if the well water is safe? Find it, bring some up & take it to the extension agent for testing?

    Oh, and in time-honored COTH tradition, is there a First Time Farmette Owners Clique and can I be in it?
    Last edited by War Admiral; Apr. 14, 2013, 06:16 PM. Reason: idea
    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

  • #2
    Around here you can just take a sample and bring it to the local health department and they'll test if for you.
    At its finest, rider and horse are joined not by tack, but by trust. Each is totally reliant upon the other. Each is the selfless guardian of the other's very well-being.
    (Author Unknown)

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    • #3
      Originally posted by NorthwoodsRider View Post
      Around here you can just take a sample and bring it to the local health department and they'll test if for you.
      This.

      G.
      Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        Thanks!
        "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

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        • #5
          Originally posted by War Admiral View Post
          Thanks!
          Safety would be your first issue; the second is flow rate. For that you'll likely have to contact a well drilling co. and have them analyze the well's capacity. That might be the reason it was abandoned.

          G.
          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

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          • #6
            In many states, you call your county extension agent and take him a sample of your water to be tested. Or you can try your state agencies. One of them will do testing for you. That is what you pay taxes for.

            Or you can take a sample of the well water to a private testing service and pay to have it tested.

            Most well companies will test for you when they check out your well and pump, etc. This costs you, but those guys will usually dump some bleach in your well to take care of anaerobic bacteria.

            You also need to determine if the well is shallow or deep. You want a deep well. it is "well worth" the extra money especially with issues of manure, etc.

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            • #7
              Ummm, if I remember rightly you have to ask specifically to have it tested for other contaminants (such as motor oil). The usual test is for bacteria.
              Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
              Incredible Invisible

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              • #8
                You can usually smell motor oil. However, yes, a test of well water will not test for every known contaminant, just the usual suspects. Sometimes when a pump is replaced or worked on, contaminants, and sometimes a small amount of oil, gets into the well water. That's why bleach is added to clear things up. Happened when my BO's pump had to be replaced and her well was worked on.

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                • #9
                  You should be able to see motor oil, too! but definitely I would get a test done and give them a list of all my concerns and ask them to test for it!
                  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

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                  • #10
                    Get your local well man to check that well out for everything.
                    He will know what to test for and where.

                    Here at least, well men are certified and have to be re-certified every so many years.
                    In those seminars they go over all that, time and again, as procedures and laws change.

                    I would say, it is worth whatever it costs you to see what you have there.
                    If it is a good well, that just made your land even better.
                    If not, you need to have it plugged properly, if it was not yet.

                    I can't imagine anyone dumb enough to use a well to pour their used motor oil!

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                    • #11
                      I can't imagine dismantling the housing on a well, exposing the shaft, and taking all that trouble to contaminate it, unless the former owners were sociopaths or something. Wells are not open holes in the ground where you can just chuck stuff.

                      Your city/municipality will have an office (water/sewer department or some such) that will test the water and may in fact insist on it before a new deed is issued on a property.
                      Click here before you buy.

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Yeah, like I said, I'm taking the motor oil story with an entire ship's barrel full of salt, LOL! But there has to be some reason that the well isn't used, and given the general water table in this valley seems to be pretty high, I doubt if running dry would be the reason. Too cheap to spring for a well pump could be.

                        Thanks for all the help!
                        "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

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                        • #13
                          Yep, just call the county and they will test it. If they tell you to put bleach in it to "kill" bacteria, don't waste your time and money. That is just a temporary "fix" so it will test clean right afterwards -- if there is bacteria in the groundwater it will come back, so to make it potable, you will need to install a UV treatment system.
                          Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                          Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                          We Are Flying Solo

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                          • #14
                            This is correct, I just had this done for our own house which is on a private well. The best place to get your test done is at the National Testing Lab in Ohio. You can order a kit from them, found online at: http://www.ntllabs.com.
                            "We, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." JFK

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                            • #15
                              List of NWGa county health dept fees; http://www.nwgapublichealth.org/env/fees.htm
                              ... _. ._ .._. .._

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                              • #16
                                I can't imagine dismantling the housing on a well, exposing the shaft, and taking all that trouble to contaminate it, unless the former owners were sociopaths or something. Wells are not open holes in the ground where you can just chuck stuff
                                unless it is a dug well as opposed to drilled well, in which case yes very easy to throw things in the well, if one was so inclined.

                                We have two wells on the farm. Both are dug wells which are quite handy in a power outage because you can easily throw a bucket down on a rope.

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by War Admiral View Post
                                  Yeah, like I said, I'm taking the motor oil story with an entire ship's barrel full of salt, LOL! But there has to be some reason that the well isn't used, and given the general water table in this valley seems to be pretty high, I doubt if running dry would be the reason. Too cheap to spring for a well pump could be.

                                  Thanks for all the help!
                                  There's all kinds of things that can go wrong with a well. It can suffer from reduced flow; it can "sand" or "mud" up from intrusion of ground material; it can become contaminated with minerals, chemicals, or sewage; it can have a casing crack due to ground shifting; some bozo attempting "redneck maintenance" could drop the pump to the bottom; etc. The possibilities are truly endless!!!

                                  Get a well professional out to look at it and then decide if it's even worth the time and money to do a water test.

                                  Good luck and I hope the problem is simple like a burned out pump motor!

                                  G.
                                  Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

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                                  • #18
                                    unless it is a dug well as opposed to drilled well, in which case yes very easy to throw things in the well, if one was so inclined.
                                    Fair enough. Those are required to be covered (with something that is tamper-proof) in these parts.
                                    Click here before you buy.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                                      Fair enough. Those are required to be covered (with something that is tamper-proof) in these parts.
                                      Simple. A wooden box with a door on the top with hasp for locking. Very accessible .;-)

                                      Newer dug wells have cement casings which can also be locked with chain and padlock. I had one like that at my cottage.

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                                        . . . Wells are not open holes in the ground where you can just chuck stuff.

                                        . . .
                                        A lot of old ones are. We went up to visit my aunt's summer camp in Maine back in the early '60's and got there right after they'd had to dredge the deer carcasses out of the well. I was too little to remember much about it but my mom used to recall the story any time I'd mention our well problems. Also back in the '80's my buddy's great aunt Jean was over a hundred and had lived on the family farm her whole life. She told me once about the old unused well for the front house and how they'd dug it by hand back when she was a girl. It was three feet across, she said.

                                        Editing if it will let me, the one in ME was almost the traditional wishing well, big granite coping and a windlass, no cover. The unused well at the other place was just a wooden trap door quietly rotting in a corner of the garden.
                                        Last edited by ReSomething; Apr. 15, 2013, 01:14 PM.
                                        Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                                        Incredible Invisible

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