Summary: Is your private well compliant with EPA rules?

When you own a well, or if you are planning to have a well drilled, driven, or bored, you need to ensure your well meets certain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements. In the long run, this will protect you, both from legal issues and health issues.

What are the compliance rules for your private well?

Well, despite the fact that over 13 million households rely on private wells for drinking water in the US alone, private wells are not regulated by the EPA rules that apply to and protect public water sources. This means there are no criteria or standards in place—but it does mean that there are important recommendations you must follow to make sure your well is safe.

1) Have your private well tested regularly.

Testing regularly for contaminants is the only way to ensure the safety of your water. Remember, since there are no EPA compliance rules, you alone are responsible for ensuring that your water is safe to drink. The EPA does suggest hiring a proper water testing company who can use the best technologies and resources to test, treat, and remove contaminants from your water.

What should you be testing for?

State and local health or environmental departments suggest starting with a WQI (water quality indicator) test. Water quality indicator tests can detect indicators, which aren’t in themselves harmful but could indicate the presence of something that is harmful. WQI tests most commonly check your water for total coliforms, fecal coliforms, and PH. These will indicate if you have a problem, at which point you should further test for contaminants like nitrates and volatile organic compounds. There are other region-specific contaminants (germs and harmful chemicals) that you may also need to test for, like lead, arsenic, mercury, radium, atrazine, and other pesticides. Contact your local health department or the EPA directly to learn about what you should watch for depending on where you live.

When should you have your water tested?

The EPA suggests having your water tested regularly, but you should also get it tested if you notice a change in the taste, color, or odor of your water; if you replace or repair any part in your well system; if you hear of any problems in other wells in your area; and if it is in the vicinity of any flooding, land disturbances, or waste disposal sites.

2) Make sure new wells are properly sited.

This can prevent your well from encountering certain problems and will improve the overall safety of your well. The EPA recommends that your well is located in an area that will allow rainwater, which can pick up surface bacteria and chemicals, to flow away from it.

Drilling a well is expensive as drillers are paid by the foot whether or not they hit water. Drilling a shallow well is disastrous in times of drought. Have a water survey conducted before you drill your private well. A water survey is a non-destructive method of determining the best site for your well, along with an estimation of its depth and yield. When the water drillers know exactly where to drill a reliable well, you save money, time, and future headaches.

3) Make sure your well is appropriately constructed to meet local geological and groundwater conditions.

The EPA suggests contacting a properly licensed and certified (based on the requirements of your region) water system professional that knows the particular concerns in your region. They further suggest that any well-drillers and pump-well installers are bonded and insured.

For more information about water surveys and having your water quality tested, visit American Water Surveyors and AquaKnow.