From the HBD Archive
From: Martin A. Lodahl <pbmoss!mal@hplabs.HP.COM>
Subject: Re: well water
Date: 1989-08-28 19:55:25 GMT

In HBD 237, Doug Bonar asks about E.coli contamination in well
water. Having lived more than half my life beyond the reach of
municipal supplies, I think I can address this.

Your chances of contamination by E.coli (or, for that matter, by
many of the most popular contaminants) depends on the depth of your
well, composition of surrounding rock strata, quality and depth of
the casing, surrounding population density, percolation qualities of
the soil, and a host of other factors. For example: I have two
wells. One is an 18' hand-dug pit, sanitary capped (presumably in
response to the 1953 California law banning open wells) and fitted
with a pump. The (meager) flow into this well has been contaminated
for years, and though I could theoretically use it for irrigation, I
don't use it at all. The contamination is undoubtedly from
neighboring sewage systems. The soil here is mostly mine dump and
decomposed granite (yes, I live in California's "Mother Lode"
country, where virtually every square inch of soil has been turned
over in search of gold) resting on a granite base, so the water
leaching from a septic system can travel a considerable distance,
and a shallow well is likely to draw water mainly from this source.

My other well is drilled, and some 140' deep. It's cased right down
to bedrock strictly to exclude surface water contamination. In the
11 years we've lived here, only once have we detected
contamination: after a 1986 flood left the well head under several
feet of water! I poured a gallon of bleach down the well, purged it
the next day, and retested a week later, finding no further sign of
coliform (or any other) contamination.

The answer, I guess, is don't worry about contamination unless
you've been presented with a compelling reason to do so, or unless
you live in the vicinity of an industrial plant or military base.
There have been many recent reports of industrial chemicals being
disposed of by injecting them into dry wells, which of course moves
these goodies quickly into the local water supply. When you
consider the known effects of some of these chemicals, their impact
on the taste of beer seems rather insignificant ...

= Martin A. Lodahl Pac*Bell Minicomputer Operations Support Staff =
= {att,bellcore,sun,ames}!pacbell!pbmoss!mal 916/972-4821 =
= If it's good for ancient Druids, runnin' nekkid through the wuids, =
= Drinkin' strange fermented fluids, it's good enough for me! 8-) =

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