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3 Clues That Your Well Is Contaminated

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Private wells are widespread in America: about 43 million Americans rely on one for their household water needs. Unlike municipal water systems, private wells aren't monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency, so maintaining them is the responsibility of individual homeowners. About 23% of wells contain contaminants, and yours could be one them. Here are three clues that your well water is contaminated.

Odor changes

A change in the smell of your water in can be a clue that your water is now contaminated. If the odor is persistent and is present in all of the faucets throughout your house, the problem is probably within the well. Different odors signify the presence of different contaminants.

If your well water smells like rotten eggs, your well water may contain hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is produced by bacteria that feed on sulfur, a mineral that is naturally present in soil and water. Hydrogen sulfide is hazardous, so a rotten egg odor needs to be taken seriously. Sometimes, a rotten egg odor can mean that sewage has gotten into your water, and that's dangerous for obvious reasons.

If your water smells like must or dirt, it may be contaminated with decaying organic matter. If your well cap is damaged or missing, plants, insects, and small animals can enter the well and decompose in your water. This leads to an unpleasant smell as well as possible bacterial contamination of your water.

Taste changes

Strange odors aren't the only clue that your well water is contaminated; strange tastes can also be a warning sign. If the water only tastes strange from one faucet, the problem is probably limited to the pipes or fixtures, but if the water tastes strange throughout your house, you have a problem with your well.

If your water tastes like cucumbers, it may be contaminated with iron bacteria. Iron bacteria are naturally occurring in nature, and while they won't make you sick, they can cause a lot of problems for your plumbing. They create rust deposits inside your pipes and fixtures, and lead to red stains in your sinks and tubs.

If you water tastes like dirt, your well water may be contaminated with soil. This can happen if the casing (metal walls) of your well develop cracks or holes; this allows soil to enter the well and contaminate your water.

Appearance changes

Your well water should be clear, with no color deposits. If you notice that your water has taken on a colored tint, you need to be concerned that a contaminant has made its way into your well water.

If your water has a blue or green tint, it may be contaminated with copper. Copper is naturally found in groundwater in some areas, but at raised levels, it can lead to problems like vomiting and diarrhea. If copper is present in your water, you may need to have a home water treatment system installed.

If your water is cloudy or foamy, it may be contaminated with detergents. This can happen if you have a leak in your septic tank and soapy water is spilling out into the soil. It can also happen if contaminated surface runoff is leaking into your well through a crack in the casing or through a damaged well cap.

If you notice a change in your water's odor, taste, or appearance, you should be concerned. These changes don't always indicate a problem, but the water needs to be tested, just to be sure. If contaminants are found, your well may be in need of structural repairs to prevent the water from becoming contaminated again in the future. A local plumber can inspect and repair your well for you if this is the case. You can visit a site like to find a plumber.