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Contaminated water in well - need ideas for clearing it up, or safe uses  RSS feed

 
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Hi all

I've recently conducted a lab analysis on water from an open well on my property.
The results just came in and the microbiological analysis says its not fit for human consumption due to presence of certain fecal related bacteria (namely enterococcus and clostridium perfigens).

I was told that many years ago people used to drink from this well, but it has been stagnant for a long time now.

Is it possible that with a regular use (for watering plants as well), this can become "clean" again? There is no source of infection nearby, i'm very near a mountain with no agriculture above me either.

I'm trying to see all the options I have available before surrendering and making a deep borehole.
I also read that this bacteria can be hard to get rid off with methods like clhorine or UV light.

So, if you have any knowledge on the matter, here are a few questions
1 - Can a regular use of the well help to "clean" it?
2 - Can this water be safely used to cook (boiled) and showers?
3 - Can this water be safely used to water a vegetable garden? (or will it contaminate the vegetables too?)
4 - any tips or ideas you can give on how to go around this? :)

thanks in advance!
 
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As a prep minded person there is no way I would get rid of that well! Do more research into the bacteria and keep in mind a LOT of wells would test positive for bacteria that technically makes them "unsafe" if people ran around testing everything.

In a shtf event water would become one of the most precious resources especially for crops, it is not something to casually toss aside for vague reasons. Plus if the well is "contaminated" then it is safe to assume the bacteria is also in the soil, so NOT watering crops with it seems a bit silly since it is almost certainly already present.

Fact is humans build up a natural resistance to a whole lot of common bacteria, yet the testing and warnings surrounding common bacteria only focus on the weakest links in the human population (i.e. the .05% that have really bad immune systems). The folks that run about sanitizing everything, and spraying their kitchen counters down with bleach every 5 seconds only ensure their immune system stays even weaker.

I would do more search (and realize a lot of the papers ONLY talk about the rare worst case scenarios) and use it for crops if nothing else. If you ever do have to use it for drinking water and it seems "fine" just realize immuno compromised individuals could potentially get really sick from it (i.e. don't give it to your visiting cousin's newborn baby or your frail great aunt that is visiting for the day). I also wouldn't be giving it to young livestock though it probably depends on the actual strain of the bacteria.

Also even a $25 Sawyer water filter removes bacteria, so keep one of those handy in case you ever have an emergency where you DO want to drink from that well. If I decided to try to use it for drinking water in an emergency or give it to animals I would mix a small bit of the well water into regular "clean" unchlorinated drinking water and start that way to introduce an especially low level of bacteria to build up natural immunity to it, then if there are no bad effects increase it over time (though since most animals love puddle water there is a chance they are already acclimated to it).

--------------------------------------------


Sources of the hazard C. perfringens  is a highly ubiquitous bacterium widely distributed in all  types of environment (soil, sediments, sewage, slurry, carcasses, dust,  the surfaces of plants, etc.). Healthy humans and animals can be carriers of  C. perfringens  in their  digestive tubes. But the quantity of  C. perfringens  in their digestive  contents is low, 10 to 10 3 /g.

C. perfringens  is a frequent contaminant of food products, especially those  of animal origin. These can be contaminated either during the evisceration  phase at the slaughterhouse, or from a contaminated environment (work  surface, contact with contaminated foods, dust, etc.).

Furthermore,  C. perfringens  causes many severe illnesses in animals,  especially necrotic enteritis in young piglets, poultry and, more rarely, the  young of other species, enterotoxaemia in sheep, cattle and sometimes  other species, dysentery in lambs.

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/diseases/clostridium-perfringens.html


--------------
In healthy people, or when present in normal amounts, Enterococcus does not usually cause a problem.  But if it spreads to other areas of the body, it may cause life-threatening infections. People in hospital settings or who have underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of developing an infection.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318337.php
 
Nuno Donato
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:As a prep minded person there is no way I would get rid of that well! Do more research into the bacteria and keep in mind a LOT of wells would test positive for bacteria that technically makes them "unsafe" if people ran around testing everything.

In a shtf event water would become one of the most precious resources especially for crops, it is not something to casually toss aside for vague reasons. Plus if the well is "contaminated" then it is safe to assume the bacteria is also in the soil, so NOT watering crops with it seems a bit silly since it is almost certainly already present.

Fact is humans build up a natural resistance to a whole lot of common bacteria, yet the testing and warnings surrounding common bacteria only focus on the weakest links in the human population (i.e. the .05% that have really bad immune systems). The folks that run about sanitizing everything, and spraying their kitchen counters down with bleach every 5 seconds only ensure their immune system stays even weaker.

I would do more search (and realize a lot of the papers ONLY talk about the rare worst case scenarios) and use it for crops if nothing else. If you ever do have to use it for drinking water and it seems "fine" just realize immuno compromised individuals could potentially get really sick from it (i.e. don't give it to your visiting cousin's newborn baby or your frail great aunt that is visiting for the day). I also wouldn't be giving it to young livestock though it probably depends on the actual strain of the bacteria.

Also even a $25 Sawyer water filter removes bacteria, so keep one of those handy in case you ever have an emergency where you DO want to drink from that well. If I decided to try to use it for drinking water in an emergency or give it to animals I would mix a small bit of the well water into regular "clean" unchlorinated drinking water and start that way to introduce an especially low level of bacteria to build up natural immunity to it, then if there are no bad effects increase it over time.

--------------------------------------------


Sources of the hazard C. perfringens  is a highly ubiquitous bacterium widely distributed in all  types of environment (soil, sediments, sewage, slurry, carcasses, dust,  the surfaces of plants, etc.). Healthy humans and animals can be carriers of  C. perfringens  in their  digestive tubes. But the quantity of  C. perfringens  in their digestive  contents is low, 10 to 10 3 /g.

C. perfringens  is a frequent contaminant of food products, especially those  of animal origin. These can be contaminated either during the evisceration  phase at the slaughterhouse, or from a contaminated environment (work  surface, contact with contaminated foods, dust, etc.).

Furthermore,  C. perfringens  causes many severe illnesses in animals,  especially necrotic enteritis in young piglets, poultry and, more rarely, the  young of other species, enterotoxaemia in sheep, cattle and sometimes  other species, dysentery in lambs.

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/diseases/clostridium-perfringens.html


--------------
In healthy people, or when present in normal amounts, Enterococcus does not usually cause a problem.  But if it spreads to other areas of the body, it may cause life-threatening infections. People in hospital settings or who have underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of developing an infection.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318337.php



thanks, I do understand your line of thought. Unfortunately, I am the one with the newborn :) plus another young child. Was counting on this water for baths and stuff.. but it might be dangerous. The lady that did the analysis said the water is "quite" contaminated. Which is odd since this is a relatively isolated place and abandoned for many years...

Getting rid of the well is not an option, just trying to find out the best way to move forward. As a last resort, I'll use it to water trees and fill up swales :P
 
pollinator
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How deep is the well?

If it's certain that the soil is the source of the contamination, you could try treating the soil itself. You'd want to do this for reasons of fostering soil health anyways.

This would be the work of at least a season before it would make sense to even test the well again, but I would look into the possibility of using oxygenated compost extracts and fungal slurries to boost the beneficial soil life in the area. If you put the right soil critters in place, the ones that look upon your resident pathogens as candy, they will take care of your issues for you.

I suggest reading over the relevant bits of Dr. Bryant Redhawk's Epic Soil Series.

Let us know how it goes, and good luck.

-CK
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Nuno Donato wrote:
thanks, I do understand your line of thought. Unfortunately, I am the one with the newborn :) plus another young child. Was counting on this water for baths and stuff.. but it might be dangerous. The lady that did the analysis said the water is "quite" contaminated. Which is odd since this is a relatively isolated place and abandoned for many years...

Getting rid of the well is not an option, just trying to find out the best way to move forward. As a last resort, I'll use it to water trees and fill up swales :P



You could look into a whole house water filter (they are not that terribly expensive, seems many are under $2000). Fortunately for you, this bacteria is commonly found in public water supplies and they can't decide to just not use that source anymore, so there is a fair amount of info on how to properly remove it using filters or UV etc...

Apparently it is the toxins produced by the bacteria that create the problem. A filter on the house water would likely make it safe for drinking, and certainly safe for bathing, just give the kids bottled drinking water to be extra safe (or put an extra filter on the kitchen faucet).

Also I read a snippet somewhere that said this bacteria thrives in low oxygen environments, so if the well was used regularly (or even had air pumped into the well to oxygenate it) it may lower the bacterial load. Just something to research.

Low  levels  of  C lostridium spores,  in  themselves,  are  unlikely  to  present a significant risk to healthy individuals directly from consuming contaminated  drinking water . The main risk from this organism is where spores from contaminated  drinking water are able to multiply  in incorrectly cooked or stored foodstuffs. In these  circumstances serious gastrointestinal disease can result. The value of monitoring for  Clostridium Perfringens in drinking water comes from its  role   as   an   indicator   of   historic   or   intermittent   faecal   co ntamination   and   the  effectiveness of any filtration process.  Detections of this organism should serve as a  trigger for a thorough investigation of the supply and any treatment process

In order to fully protect the health of those consuming the  supply, a filtration system capable of removing particles down to a size of 1  m  sho uld be installed. Such a barrier treatment process is also the only means  of ensuring clostridium spores are removed from the supply and that samples  taken  for  this  parameter  are  compliant  with  the  regulation

http://dwqr.scot/media/9736/pws-parameter-information-clostridium-perfringens.pdf
 
Nuno Donato
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for reference, I found this article, very interesting http://oasisdesign.net/water/quality/coliform.htm
 
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Our well got contaminated (the first time) when they were doing seismic testing for minerals. Everyone got sick, including the animals. So we "shocked" our well. AKA we poured bleach in it. This ends up being a somewhat funny story (now that it's over) of how stupid we are and how for a short time our water was literally orange juice because we poured way too much vitamin C into it to counteract the way too much bleach we poured into it.

I'd shock the well then run it for many many days until all the water in it was out and new water from the aquifer had refilled it.
 
Nuno Donato
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elle sagenev wrote:Our well got contaminated (the first time) when they were doing seismic testing for minerals. Everyone got sick, including the animals. So we "shocked" our well. AKA we poured bleach in it. This ends up being a somewhat funny story (now that it's over) of how stupid we are and how for a short time our water was literally orange juice because we poured way too much vitamin C into it to counteract the way too much bleach we poured into it.

I'd shock the well then run it for many many days until all the water in it was out and new water from the aquifer had refilled it.



what was the water volume at that time and how much bleach did you use?
 
elle sagenev
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Nuno Donato wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Our well got contaminated (the first time) when they were doing seismic testing for minerals. Everyone got sick, including the animals. So we "shocked" our well. AKA we poured bleach in it. This ends up being a somewhat funny story (now that it's over) of how stupid we are and how for a short time our water was literally orange juice because we poured way too much vitamin C into it to counteract the way too much bleach we poured into it.

I'd shock the well then run it for many many days until all the water in it was out and new water from the aquifer had refilled it.



what was the water volume at that time and how much bleach did you use?



We had absolutely no idea how big our well was at the time. We used an entire bottle of bleach. Our pipes have never been so clean before. Terrible! But vitamin C does nullify bleach so we bought a bag of that and poured it in and then as I said, our water was orange. It tasted like orange juice. It took several months to fix the whole debacle. If you can, hire someone much smarter than yourself (and us too) to do it right!
 
Nuno Donato
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elle sagenev wrote:

Nuno Donato wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Our well got contaminated (the first time) when they were doing seismic testing for minerals. Everyone got sick, including the animals. So we "shocked" our well. AKA we poured bleach in it. This ends up being a somewhat funny story (now that it's over) of how stupid we are and how for a short time our water was literally orange juice because we poured way too much vitamin C into it to counteract the way too much bleach we poured into it.

I'd shock the well then run it for many many days until all the water in it was out and new water from the aquifer had refilled it.


dsaERWT43Q
what was the water volume at that time and how much bleach did you use?



We had absolutely no idea how big our well was at the time. We used an entire bottle of bleach. Our pipes have never been so clean before. Terrible! But vitamin C does nullify bleach so we bought a bag of that and poured it in and then as I said, our water was orange. It tasted like orange juice. It took several months to fix the whole debacle. If you can, hire someone much smarter than yourself (and us too) to do it right!



ahah that's a funny story :) were you never afraid that the bleach levels in the water could be too high for consumption?
 
elle sagenev
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Nuno Donato wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:

Nuno Donato wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Our well got contaminated (the first time) when they were doing seismic testing for minerals. Everyone got sick, including the animals. So we "shocked" our well. AKA we poured bleach in it. This ends up being a somewhat funny story (now that it's over) of how stupid we are and how for a short time our water was literally orange juice because we poured way too much vitamin C into it to counteract the way too much bleach we poured into it.

I'd shock the well then run it for many many days until all the water in it was out and new water from the aquifer had refilled it.


dsaERWT43Q
what was the water volume at that time and how much bleach did you use?



We had absolutely no idea how big our well was at the time. We used an entire bottle of bleach. Our pipes have never been so clean before. Terrible! But vitamin C does nullify bleach so we bought a bag of that and poured it in and then as I said, our water was orange. It tasted like orange juice. It took several months to fix the whole debacle. If you can, hire someone much smarter than yourself (and us too) to do it right!



ahah that's a funny story :) were you never afraid that the bleach levels in the water could be too high for consumption?



Oh they were. That's why we vitamin C'd it. LOL
 
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This water is fine for drip irrigation.

A reverse osmosis filter system plus UV/bleach/ozone sanitation will make the water safe to drink+cook+shower+laundry with.

Forcefully pumping out the well water vs just frequent use of the well will remove some of the bacterial/toxin load.
After that is done drop a ozone generator in the well to kill the rest.

Make sure your septic pipes are not leaking and your leach field is far away and down hill of your well.
Maybe use a separate black and greywater system. And maybe use a 0.2L aka 1/5 of a quart vaccum flush electric toilet.

Cover your well, even build a shed over it.
Have the soil sloping away from the well
Mulch the soil near it with woodchip.

If you have animals (chicken/ducks/sheep/goat/pig/cow/etc).
Cull them and retest in 60days to see if there is a difference.
Mulch as much of you land as possible so that it can filter possible pollutants coming to your property (wild birds, wild animals, your animals, 'neighbors farm manure pollutant')
 
Nuno Donato
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S Bengi wrote:This water is fine for drip irrigation.

A reverse osmosis filter system plus UV/bleach/ozone sanitation will make the water safe to drink+cook+shower+laundry with.

Forcefully pumping out the well water vs just frequent use of the well will remove some of the bacterial/toxin load.
After that is done drop a ozone generator in the well to kill the rest.

Make sure your septic pipes are not leaking and your leach field is far away and down hill of your well.
Maybe use a separate black and greywater system. And maybe use a 0.2L aka 1/5 of a quart vaccum flush electric toilet.

Cover your well, even build a shed over it.
Have the soil sloping away from the well
Mulch the soil near it with woodchip.

If you have animals (chicken/ducks/sheep/goat/pig/cow/etc).
Cull them and retest in 60days to see if there is a difference.
Mulch as much of you land as possible so that it can filter possible pollutants coming to your property (wild birds, wild animals, your animals, 'neighbors farm manure pollutant')



Hi and thanks for the tips!
the land is not being used yet, no animals (except wild?) or sceptic tanks.
We are planning a greywater system. For toilets we are planning to use the humanure (compost toilet) system. Do you think it will do more harm to the current condition? As far as I understood, if its done properly there won't be bacteria at the end of the composting process, when the manure is used.
 
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There are a lot of details about your well that will be important to determine, and I would urge caution about moving ahead until you understand the source of the contamination and an appropriate path to address it.  How deep is the well?  Is it lined with stone or pipe to prevent surface water intrusion and contamination from run-off?  Is it covered to exclude airborne contaminants?  What is your flow rate - is it still water, or bubbling up and running out?  Proper physical stabilization and environmental protection are key to keeping the water clean and a professional might approach different situations from different perspectives.  Is there local expertise?  Do you have neighbors with similar wells?  How are theirs configured and have they dealt with situations like yours?  There is probably a wealth of information around you if you start to ask, and those folks are likely to be helpful in other ways too!
 
Nuno Donato
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Phil Gardener wrote:There are a lot of details about your well that will be important to determine, and I would urge caution about moving ahead until you understand the source of the contamination and an appropriate path to address it.  How deep is the well?  Is it lined with stone or pipe to prevent surface water intrusion and contamination from run-off?  Is it covered to exclude airborne contaminants?  What is your flow rate - is it still water, or bubbling up and running out?  Proper physical stabilization and environmental protection are key to keeping the water clean and a professional might approach different situations from different perspectives.  Is there local expertise?  Do you have neighbors with similar wells?  How are theirs configured and have they dealt with situations like yours?  There is probably a wealth of information around you if you start to ask, and those folks are likely to be helpful in other ways too!



Hi, the well is lined with very thick stone. 8m deep, currently 2-3m of water
But its been stagnant for many years.

Neighbors have similar wells, but they dont need to use it for drinking purposes (just irrigation) so they dont bother about it
 
pollinator
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Howdy Nuno
I've got a few more questions. Is this well pump driven? Does it have a way to run if you decide to go that route? How wide is the bore hole?
BTW the property sounds divine; near the mountains no neighbors. Congratulations.
Brian
 
Nuno Donato
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Brian Rodgers wrote:Howdy Nuno
I've got a few more questions. Is this well pump driven? Does it have a way to run if you decide to go that route? How wide is the bore hole?
BTW the property sounds divine; near the mountains no neighbors. Congratulations.
Brian



will be, yes, I'm getting an electric pump. What do you mean by a way to run?
Its about 2m wide, maybe slightly less.... and narrower as it goes down.

 
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