Public water systems are continually tested for different pollutants and pathogens. On the contrary, the testing of private well water systems is left up to the people who own them. This means that if you are among the 15 million households in the U.S. that get their water from a private well water system, it is up to you to keep your water safe.
The water you use is essential to your everyday living; you cannot live without it. You use water every day for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing; unfortunately, if you are like most people, you are probably taking your water for granted, failing to think about the potentially grave consequences that await you.
Most well water users are perhaps more cognizant of the condition of their water than most people who use a public water system, but that does not mean that they are fully aware of the condition of their water, including the ramifications they face if their water is contaminated.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates and tests public water supplies, helping to make sure that people across the country are receiving water that is free from the copious elements that could harm them. Unfortunately, there is no agency that looks after private well systems, and that makes those systems a potential danger to the people who draw water from them on a daily basis.
If you and your family are reliant on water from a private well, it is of the utmost importance that you know how to recognize warning signs of contaminated water and what the potential dangers are. The safety of you and your family depends on it.
What Are Pollutants and Pathogens?
Pathogens are agents that live in a host, animals and humans. They cause infections and diseases. There are many different types of pathogens. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa are all microorganisms. Other pathogens are parasites, worms, and prions.
Common Fungal Diseases
- Candidiasis: an infection in the mouth, throat, stomach, or vagina
- Ringworm, a common skin infection that looks like a circular rash
- Athletes foot: an infection that thrives in warm environments; and fungal meningitis, a rare disease that affects the spinal cord through blood.
Prion diseases are known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, a group of rare but fatal brain diseases in animals and humans.
Pollutants are substances and energy introduced into the environment that cause an adverse or undesirable effect. They are elements, particles, and molecules that pollute the very things on which plants, humans and animals depend: air, soil, and water. They are introduced into the environment naturally and by design.
Some of the most toxic pollutants that affect the environment and overall health of humans and animals are carbon dioxide, which is produced when coal, natural gas, and oil are burned; methane, which is a natural gas produced in marshes, underground and below sea level; and nitrogenous wastes, which come from fertilizer industries, coal carbonization units, and amine production units.
Some other pollutants are radioactive wastes, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, and plastic. Pollutants are ubiquitous, and they affect our everyday lives, slowly but surely.
What Are the Visible Signs of Contaminated Water?
Water that comes out of the faucet should be clear. If it is not, you may have a problem. Contaminated water is usually murky, cloudy, or muddied. Unclear water could be the result of dirt, rust, clay salts, or silt that is taken out of the ground when water washes over it. You could also have contaminated water from corroded or rusted pipes.
Green stains that are visible on your sink and faucet are clear indicators of contamination, coming from high acid content in your water. Acid contaminants are iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc, all of which find their way into your water through pipes and other natural deposits. Excess acid that can also corrode your pipes.
Acid contaminants have short and long-term health effects. They can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. Some long-term effects are kidney disease and liver disease.
Brown or red stains are a sign of dissolved iron. These iron deposits can be found in sinks, clothes, and dishwashers. They are an indication that there is a high level of iron in your drinking water. Too much iron can damage the heart, pancreas, and liver.
Scale buildup can cause a scummy feeling when you drink your water. You can recognize scaley water by a white substance that often clogs your pipes and faucets. Scale buildup is caused by calcium or magnesium deposits.
Oily film on the surface of your water means that minerals and other organic matter are in your water. When mixed, minerals create an oily appearance. This usually means that your pump needs to be replaced.
Can You Taste Contaminated Water?
There are a number of ways you can taste contaminated water. A salty taste is usually due to a high sodium or chloride content. Sodium and chloride are produced from salt dissolving in your water. They most commonly occur naturally in groundwater, but they can also seep into your well in other ways, such as from fertilizer and sewage. Wells near farmland can experience high levels of contamination due to the use of fertilizer.
Industrial areas have chemicals and pesticides that seep into the groundwater. If your well is contaminated with these contaminants, your water is going to have a chemical taste. It will taste somewhat like chlorinated pool water, which most people have accidentally swallowed when swimming in a chlorinated pool from time to time. This problem could lead to serious health risks, possibly leading to cancer or heart disease.
A metallic taste most likely means that your water has acid contaminants. This means that your water will taste like metal. Besides causing problems with your pipes, high acid content in your water can cause health issues, such as gastrointestinal problems and skin irritation.
If you have ever accidentally tasted soap when taking a shower, you should know when your drinking water tastes soapy, which may mean that you have an excess of alkaline minerals in your water. These include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and bicarbonate. Too much alkalinity in your body could disrupt your pH level, leading to metabolic alkalosis, an acid-based disorder that could cause an array of health problems.
Can You Smell Contaminated Water?
If your water smells sulfuric (like rotten eggs), it most likely has sulfur bacteria or hydrogen sulfide gas in it. Sulfur bacteria occurs naturally. It forms via chemical reactions or decay in soil and rocks. Sulfur bacteria produce a slimy substance that promotes the growth of other bacteria and hydrogen sulfide gas, which is harmful at high levels. Hydrogen sulfide gas can cause headaches, nausea, and skin and eye irritation.
If your water smells like chlorine, you have too much of it in your water system. Chlorine is one of several chemicals used to clean your water, but in excess, it can be dangerous. Too much chlorine could lead to birth defects, cancer, and asthma.
If you smell detergent in your drinking water, it could be an indication that a septic tank has seeped into your water well. Septic tanks play host to a wide range of bacteria and contamination, all of which could result in illness if you drink it.
How Can You Prevent Water Well Contamination?
You should have your well tested regularly, but you should not do this yourself unless you are trained to do so. Instead, hire a certified well contractor to inspect your well system at a minimum of once a year. Your well should be checked for mechanical issues, coliform bacteria, nitrates, dissolved solids, and pH levels.
If you suspect any problems with your well water, do not hesitate to perform your annual inspection. Reach out to your local health department or any expert in the field to advise you as to the right course of action.
You should have your well tested if you have had flooding or land disturbances near your well, or if you have replaced or repaired a part of your well.
Plainfield Environmental Lawyers at Herold Law Represent Clients Who Have Experienced Sickness from a Contaminated Well Water System.
If you or a loved one have developed health issues due to environmental hazards, call our experienced Plainfield environmental lawyers at Herold Law to help you get the best possible result. Call us at 908-647-1022 or contact us online. Located in Warren, New Jersey, we represent clients in Warren, Plainfield, and throughout New Jersey.