Anyone who lives in the country is familiar with a well. While it may seem like a simple hole bored into the ground to many, for thousands of people in our area it’s the sole source of potable water, serving some families for generations.
As a well owner, it’s your job to be in the know about your well and this includes understanding the basics of well maintenance and operation, and to take the necessary actions to keep your well in good working order.
Well owners are in the unique position of having control of their own water, and usually that water is flawless. However, keeping it that way requires a bit of legwork. The owners know exactly what they should be doing?
Maintenance is key. There are three main chores you need to do on a regular basis:
• Protect your well water at the ground surface by avoiding, eliminating, or reducing contaminants.
• Inspect your well regularly and keep your well in good running order.
• Test your well water regularly and respond to contamination problems.
While what’s going on inside the well is important, keeping abreast of the area surrounding your well is also crucial. It’s easier than you’d think for contamination to reach the groundwater below. Check that gasoline, pesticides, and other chemicals are stored in proper containers designed to help prevent spills or leakage. Fuel up the lawn mower a good distance away from your well should there be any spillage of fuel. Outdoor projects such as painting or staining should also be avoided in the immediate vicinity of a well.
Regulation 903 of the Ontario Water Resources Act requires that you keep your well accessible. The same regulation calls for regular maintenance to ensure your well is functioning properly. The reasoning behind all these requirements is to protect the quality of our province’s ground water.
We as well owners sometimes forget that our well is more than a source of clean, fresh drinking water, it also is a direct link to the ground water below. That supply can easily be damaged by contaminants leeching in from above, ruining ground water over a large area.
Looking for signs of damage, or unexpected features in the ground surrounding your well can prevent a host of potentially dangerous and expensive problems down the road. A damaged well cap, an improperly functioning seal between the well casing and the drilled hole (called the annular seal), cracking or other dislocation in the casing itself can all cause major headaches for homeowners if not repaired.
All of these problems can lead to contaminants entering the well water including:
• The dreaded coliform bacteria (especially E. coli) from animal fecal waste, including human.
• Nitrate, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, especially for children.
• Sodium from winter roadway or driveway salt; metals and minerals from landfills, construction, manufacturing, mining, agriculture, golf courses, septic systems and road salts.
• Gasoline, oil or diesel fuels.
Have a look at your well, ensure the cap is free of cracks or other damage, and the vent should face the ground and be properly screened to keep out insects.
Look for a depression in the ground around the edge of the well casing, or see if you can move the casing at all by pushing against it. Either of these may mean the impermeable fill material around the casing has shrunk, collapsed or cracked. Gaps or cracks can allow surface water to flow down along the outside of the well casing and eventually into the aquifer to contaminate your drinking water.
A great online resource for well owners can be found at www.wellaware.ca. The website offers advice, tips and frequently asked questions about how to care for your well.
Protecting our ground water starts at home and maintaining our wells is a part of that process. Doing all we can today by following a few simple rules of thumb will ensure clean drinking water for generations to come.
Matt Higgs is Green Up’s communications co-ordinator. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE: Peterborough Examiner