There's nothing as thirst quenching on a hot summer's day as a cool glass of water. While many homes in Carbon County are lucky enough to have mountain water fresh from their local aquifers if they are on a private well system, there is a price to pay for owning such a system.
Well water quality varies from location to location. Some locations have hard water, others have dissolved metals. In some locations water could have significant levels of organic materials, and in any location, piping systems may be affected by microorganisms and corrosion.
To help inform homeowners understand well water quality issues, an online pamphlet, "Water Quality – Your Private Well: What Do the Results Mean?," has been published by the Wilkes University Center for Environmental Quality Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences Drinking Water Testing, Water Quality and Pathogenic Disease Laboratories as part of the Center's Homeowner or Private Well Owner Outreach Program.
The program, headed by professional geologist Brian Oram, has been involved with projects related to mine drainage, lake and stream monitoring, wetland creation and monitoring, filtration plant performance, testing new point of use water treatments, hydrogeological evaluations, geological investigations, soils testing, soil morphological evaluations, water well drilling and construction, drinking water testing, mail order water testing kits, and land reclamation.
According to the report's preface, "The goal of this document is to help you interpret the results of a recent water quality analysis of your drinking water ... and should be used as an aid to help you interpret your results."
Using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards as a reference, the report first discusses detecting impurities in water, and then discusses what you can do to correct typical problems.
The report notes that, "No drinking water is truly pure. Instead, water contains minerals and other substances dissolved from the surrounding rocks and environment." It notes that readings of zero levels of a contaminant, should be interpreted to mean that the measured level was less than that which could be measured by the analytic equipment."
It also notes that, "Thousands of contaminants might be present in water, and it would normally be much too expensive to test for every possible contaminant. However, there are some simple, inexpensive tests that can act as red flags for possible contamination. High conductivity and total dissolved solids, i.e., TDS, tests suggest there likely are high levels of some kind of contamination. These tests will not indicate specifically what the contaminants are but would indicate that additional testing is probably recommended."
A complete well water test checks for bacteria, which includes Fecal Coliform and E. coli; inorganics – ordinary metals, toxic metal, salts, and mineral complexes; volatile organic chemicals-such as petrochemicals; synthetic organic compounds such as herbicides; secondary contaminants-color, turbidity, corrosivity, foaming, odor, pH, Total Dissolved Solids, alkalinity, hardness; and radioactive compounds.
The report provides suggestions for common Northeastern Pennsylvania well water problems. In many cases, a professional water quality specialists is suggested to deal with complex problems.
For instance, what if there is a high bacteria level in your tap water? The options may require a chlorine shock to the system, an inspection for weaknesses in the well construction, or installation of a disinfection system. Where the water is acidic, the water may leach metals from the piping.
A new factor is related to the deep drilling of the Marcellus Shale gas fields. In some instances, it has been reported that methane – a colorless, odorless, tasteless, combustible gas – can get into nearby wells.
For more information, see the report at: www.wilkes.edu/water.