Whether your well is new or old, it requires supervision and maintenance.
A schedule for your well allows you to not only make sure your water is safe to drink, but also lets you keep track of your water quality over time. If your water quality changes, treatment options will vary and having the right information promotes proper well ownership and stewardship.
My well water looks and tastes great, it doesn’t need maintenance. Or does it?
In order for your system to continue working properly and your water quality to remain safe for consumption, it is recommended you adopt a maintenance schedule. Oregon State University Extension Service has created a fact sheet to assist you in being a proper well steward.
Even if your water looks and tastes good, hidden contaminants could be present. Having a maintenance and testing schedule for your well water allows you to not only make sure your water is always safe to drink, but also lets you keep track of the water quality over time. Locating your well log (WRD Well Log Query) and keeping a record of all failures, repairs, tests, and maintenance can help reduce future repairs and unknown contaminations. To see if your well has been previously tested, you can visit DEQ's database (Water Quality Data Exchange) and follow these instructions on how to search for your well. If you have further questions related to maintaining and repairing your well, contact a local and licensed Water Well Contractor.
How do I know if my well needs treatment?
The best way to know if your well needs treatment is to be aware of your surroundings (new construction, flooding, etc.) and to get it tested once a year. Some contaminants may not produce a smell, taste, or color but could still affect your water quality and health based on levels present in the water. You may need to test more frequently if the well has a history of contamination, your septic system has recently malfunctioned, family members are showing incidence of stomach illness, infants are drinking the water, or any equipment has broken or malfunctioned.
What treatment options are available?
Treatment options will depend on the type of contaminants in your well. Some problems may be easy to treat. For example, certain bacteria can sometimes be controlled by removing the source of the contamination, such as a dead mouse that fell into the well opening followed by shock chlorinating the well and pipes. More persistent types of bacteria may require continuous chlorination. Other types of contaminants may require more advanced treatments such as ion exchange or reverse osmosis. If water treatment is not an option, other options may include connecting to a new source, or constructing a new deeper well.
If test results from your private well indicate contamination, make sure to browse through the Well Treatment and Maintenance section of the DWSP's Other Resources webpage. Contacting your local health department's Drinking Water County Contact will be a great resource. The Water System Council's Wellcare Hotline (888-395-1033) is another available resource for any treatment questions or if you are ready to decide on a treatment system. NSF and WQA can also help you investigate the right treatment system for your well.
I just moved into a property with a well, what steps should I take to make sure the water is safe?
Oregon law requires that the seller submit well water test results to the buyer for any property with a domestic well. It is important to know that the state does not require that these tests pass, they just require that the results be reported to the future buyer. If you are a new well owner, this checklist may be helpful to review. Also make sure to look over the test results from the real estate transaction and determine whether or not your well needs treatment. If you need help reading the results or would like to test for other contaminants, contact your local accredited laboratory.
If you are a RENTER, the Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant Act (ORS 90.320) requires that all landlords maintain their rental units in a habitable condition, including providing a water supply maintained so as to provide "safe drinking water." This means that the landlord is responsible for fixing or replacing the plumbing, or providing another source of safe drinking water if the well is contaminated. The Community Alliance of Tenants can assist you should you encounter any resistance from your landlord.
My property flooded during a storm, is my well safe to drink from?
If you think your well has been affected by flooding waters, EPA recommends the following first steps:
- Stay away from the well pump while flooded to avoid electric shock.
- Do not drink or wash from the flooded well to avoid becoming sick.
- Get assistance from a well or pump contractor to clean and turn on the pump.
- After the pump is turned back on, pump the well until the water runs clear to rid the well of flood water. If the water does not run clear, it is recommended that a coliform test is done prior to using the well.
**CAUTION** Your well may not be a safe source of water for many months after a flood. The well can become contaminated with bacteria or other contaminants over time and cause short and long term health effects. Wastewater from malfunctioning septic tanks or chemicals seeping into the ground can contaminate the groundwater even after the water was tested and found to be safe. Repeated testing is strongly recommended to protect the safety of your drinking water.
If you do not have access to bottled water, the fact sheet "What to do when your well is flooded" can help you make your water safe to drink. You should follow similar procedures should any other disaster occur (ie: fire, snowstorm, etc.).