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Test your well water

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Well HouseBy: Rachael Abney

Going off the grid has become increasingly popular in the last decade. This includes owning a private source of water. While our nation is just catching on to the benefits of not paying for city water, citizens who live in the country have owned wells for decades.

15% of Americans own private wells and the numbers are increasing each year. Private water sources are not regulated like city water which means that they are not regularly tested. This task is up to the well owner but is this step in owning a well being carried out?

This reporter tested the water from two different wells in the Chambers County area. One came back safe and the other tested for high levels of nitrate.

About half of America’s drinking water comes from ground water. Most wells draw ground water from an aquifer. Ground water is known to collect contaminants from natural and unnatural sources. When water moves through underground rock and soil, it can pick up calcium, chlorides, and magnesium. Some ground water may even contain dissolved elements such as arsenic, boron, or radon.

In addition to natural contaminants ground water is also affected by human activity such as the improper use of fertilizers, animal manure, herbicides and insecticides. The danger of these elements depends on the amount found in the water source.

Since most of our local wells in Chambers County are in a rural area contaminants to test for would include Nitrates and Bacteria. Nitrates and Nitrites are especially dangerous for infants who have the contaminated water mixed in their formula. These pollutants are created by human or animal wastes such as farm animals or septic tanks.

Nitrates can also be a product of fertilizers and pesticides. Another source is leaking underground piping and tanks. The possibility of leaking tanks is great on old abandoned farm sites. Other contaminants are caused by improper disposal of motor oil, paints, or paint thinners.

Just remember that your well is affected by the environment around you. Keep in mind that everything that seeps into the ground can end up in your glass. Self-sufficiency is in the very spirit of country life. Just remember that you are responsible for your family’s safety. The Safe Water Drinking Act does not protect private wells and the EPA’s rules only apply to public water sources.

Well water can be tested at the Chambers County Health Department in Valley. There are also several independent testing sites in Opelika and Auburn.

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