Water well safety
Private Water Wells
If your family gets drinking water from a private well, do you know if your water is safe to drink? What health risks could you and your family face? Where can you go for help or advice? The EPA regulates public water systems; it does not have the authority to regulate private drinking water wells. Approximately 15% of Americans rely on their own private drinking water supplies, and these supplies are not subject to EPA standards, although some state and local governments do set rules to protect users of these wells. Unlike public drinking water systems serving many people, they do not have experts regularly checking the water’s source and its quality before it is sent to the tap. These households must take special precautions to ensure the protection and maintenance of their drinking water supplies.
There are three types of private drinking water wells: dug, driven, and drilled. Proper well construction and continued maintenance are keys to the safety of your water supply. Your state water-well contractor licensing agency, local health department, or local water system professional can provide information on well construction. The well should be located so rainwater flows away from it. Rainwater can pick up harmful bacteria and chemicals on the land’s surface. If this water pools near your well, it can seep into it, potentially causing health problems. Water-well drillers and pump-well installers are listed in your local phone directory. The contractor should be bonded and insured. Make certain your ground water contractor is registered or licensed in your state, if required. If your state does not have a licensing/registration program, contact the National Ground Water Association.
To keep your well safe, you must be sure that possible sources of contamination are not close by. Experts suggest the following distances as a minimum for protection — farther is better(see graphic on the right):
Protect your own well area. Be careful about storage and disposal of household and lawn-care chemicals and wastes. Good farmers and gardeners minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Take steps to reduce erosion and prevent surface water runoff. Regularly check underground storage tanks that hold home heating oil, diesel, or gasoline. Make sure your well is protected from the wastes of livestock, pets and wildlife.
Dug wells are holes in the ground dug by shovel or backhoe. Historically, a dug well was excavated below the ground water table until incoming water exceeded the digger’s bailing rate. The well was then lined (cased) with stones, brick, tile, or other material to prevent collapse. It was covered with a cap of wood, stone or concrete. Since it is so difficult to dig beneath the ground water table, dug wells are not very deep. Typically, they are only 10 to 30 feet deep. Being so shallow, dug wells have the highest risk of becoming contaminated.To minimize the likelihood of contamination, your dug well should have certain features. These features help to prevent contaminants from traveling along the outside of the casing, or through the casing and into the well.
Dug Well Construction Features
Like dug wells, driven wells pull water from the water-saturated zone above the bedrock. Driven wells can be deeper than dug wells. They are typically 30 to 50 feet deep and are usually located in areas with thick sand and gravel deposits where the ground water table is within 15 feet of the ground’s surface. In the proper geologic setting, driven wells can be easy and relatively inexpensive to install. Although deeper than dug wells, driven wells are still relatively shallow and have a moderate-to-high risk of contamination from nearby land activities.
Driven Well Construction Features
Drilled wells penetrate about 100 to 400 feet into the bedrock. Where you find bedrock at the surface, it is commonly called ledge. To serve as a water supply, a drilled well must intersect bedrock fractures containing ground water.
Drilled Well Construction Features
How can I test the quality of my private drinking water supply?
Consider testing your well for pesticides, organic chemicals, and heavy metals before you use it for the first time. Test private water supplies annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to detect contamination problems early. Test them more frequently if you suspect a problem. Be aware of activities in your watershed that may affect the water quality of your well, especially if you live in an unsewered area.
The first step to protect your health and the health of your family is learning about what may pollute your source of drinking water. Potential contamination may occur naturally, or as a result of human activity.
What are some naturally occurring sources of pollution?
Private, individual wells are the responsibility of the homeowner. To help protect your well, here are some steps you can take:
Have your water tested periodically. It is recommended that water be tested every year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, test for those. Always use a state-certified laboratory that conducts drinking water tests. Since these can be expensive, spend some time identifying potential problems. Consult your InterNACHI inspector for information about how to go about water testing.
Testing more than once a year may be warranted in special situations if:
Identify potential problems as the first step to safe-guarding your drinking water. The best way to start is to consult a local expert -- someone who knows your area, such as the local health department, agricultural extension agent, a nearby public water system, or a geologist at a local university.
Be aware of your surroundings. As you drive around your community, take note of new construction. Check the local newspaper for articles about new construction in your area.
Check the paper or call your local planning and zoning commission for announcements about hearings or zoning appeals on development or industrial projects that could possibly affect your water.
Attend these hearings, ask questions about how your water source is being protected, and don't be satisfied with general answers. Ask questions, such as: "If you build this landfill, what will you do to ensure that my water will be protected?" See how quickly they answer and provide specifics about what plans have been made to specifically address that issue.
Identify Potential Problem SourcesTo start your search for potential problems, begin close to home. Do a survey around your well to discover:
In addition to the immediate area around your well, you should be aware of other possible sources of contamination that may already be part of your community or may be moving into your area. Attend any local planning or appeals hearings to find out more about the construction of facilities that may pollute your drinking water. Ask to see the environmental impact statement on the project. See if the issue of underground drinking water sources has been addressed. If not, ask why.
Common Sources of Ground Water ContaminationCategory Contaminant SourceAgricultural
Here is a list of the most popular roofing materials, including key factors like cost, life span and level of sustainability so you can choose the right roof for your new home:
Asphalt shingles: As many as 90% of American roofs have asphalt shingles due to low cost, ease of installation, and resiliency. The down side is that asphalt shingles have a low insulative value and a shorter lifespan than many other roofing materials available today. Standard asphalt shingles come in a variety of colors, longevity options, and price points and are usually going to be your cheapest option for your roof.
House Style: Can be used for almost any architectural style.
Cost: $50 to $150 per square (10 x 10 area = 100 square feet = 1 square)
Life Span: 15 to 30 years
Wood shingles and shakes: Wood shingles and shakes can be purchased in cedar, redwood, southern pine and other woods, cedar being the most costly. Wood shingles are cut by machine, while wood shakes are handmade and have a rougher look. Since most wood shingles and shakes only have Class C fire ratings or no ratings at all, be sure to check your local building codes before deciding on this type of roofing. You can purchase Class A wood shingles with fire-resistant treatment for an additional cost.
House Style: Ranch, cottage, bungalows, cottage, historic and contemporary
Cost: $100 to $165 per square (10 x 10 area = 100 square feet = 1 square)
Life Span: 30 to 50 years
Green Factor: A natural product, but very high maintenance, poor fire rating and they tend to rot, split and mold.
A great alternative to wood shingles and shakes are recycled synthetic shingles, which are made from plastic or rubber, mixed with recycled wood and are shaped to mimic wood shakes. They are lightweight, UV-resistant, fire-resistant, and long lasting. Some are comparable in lifespan to 50-year asphalt shingles. Though they generally cannot be recycled, due to their inseparable mixture of biological and plastic content, recycled synthetic shingles are still a greener material than real cedar shakes.
Clay & Concrete Tiles: Clay tiles are very heavy, requiring additional roof framing, but they are non-combustible and extremely durable. Clay roofing tiles can come in lighter colors, which adhere to the cool roof standards and can reflect well over 50% of the sun's solar energy. Concrete roofing tiles offer elegant, enduring aesthetics for your home's design and added value. Concrete tiles are very versatile and provide greater protection to the homeowner. These flexible tiles come in so many different hues, shapes, textures and styles that they don't even look like tiles at all. Shingle, shake and slate are just some of the varieties of tile.
House Style: Mediterranean, European, Mission and some contemporary or ranch-style homes.
Cost: $300 to $600 per square (10 x 10 area = 100 square feet = 1 square)
Life Span: 50 plus years
Green Factor: If a local source is available, clay tiles are definitely one of the greenest roofing choices. Concrete is highly energy-efficient and can be made from a sustainable mixture.
Slate: Slate has a beautiful, distinctive appearance. Although very heavy, a slate roof is non-leaching and will last for hundreds of years. It is easy to repair and recycle. Because slate is often a dark color it isn't recommended for high-heat locations.
House Style: Colonial, French, and Chateau
Cost: $550 to $1000 per square (10 x 10 area = 100 square feet = 1 square)
Life Span: 50 to 100 years
Green Factor: Excellent sustainable roofing choice. Quarrying and splitting slate tile has little environmental impact compared to the production of other roofing products.
Metal (steel, aluminum, tile and copper): Metal roofs are some of the coolest roofs around, both in temperature and style for new homes. Metal roofs are available in copper, aluminum, and stainless steel, and often have a high percentage of recycled content. They offer high insulation solar reflectivity, and durability, often lasting twice as long as wood or asphalt. Metal shingles typically simulate traditional roof coverings, such as wood shakes, shingles, slate and tile. Aside from its longevity, metal shingles are much lighter than most materials and very resistance to adverse weather.
House Style: Bungalow, ranch, contemporary, cottage
Cost: S starts around $100 per square (10 x 10 area = 100 square feet = 1 square) but can run up to $600 for coated steels and copper.
Life Span: At least 50 years
Green Factor: Very green because they are highly energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
Fiber Cement: Fiber-cement composite tile is composed of concrete, clay, and wood fiber. This mixture is both durable and fireproof and often shaped to look like shakes. Fiber-cement tiles are not as heavy as regular concrete tiles so they don't need extra-heavy roof structures. Fiber cement is available in a variety of textures and colors and is very durable — as long as you don't step on them or live in very cold climates because they can crack.
House Style: Works with any architectural style
Cost: $500 per square (10 x 10 area = 100 square feet = 1 square)
Life Span: 20 to 30 years
Green Factor: Can be recycled, are non-leaching and make a good base for water collection.
Information courtesy of www.thehousedeisgners.com