Guide to Drinking Water Contamination
What is Groundwater and How Does It Become Polluted
WELL WATER CONTAMINATION: CAUSES, CURES - home - CONTENTS: Guide to contaminants in well water: causes & cures, beginning with the question: what is ground water, where does in come from, and how does it get contaminated? Is groundwater safe to drink?
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Water well pollution: sources, detection, cures:
A guide to contaminants in drinking water from household wells: this article describes the sources of contaminants found in well water, well water testing strategies, and procedures for correcting drinking water well contamination problems.
We begin with an EPA definition of ground water and an explanation of ways in which groundwater becomes contaminated.
A Guide to Contaminants in Drinking Water from Household Wells
- Original source: EPA Guide to Contaminants in Drinking Water from Household Wells - EPA 816-K-02-003 January 2002, expanded, illustrated and annotated with information from additional SOURCES, February 2013
This article series provides general information about drinking water from home wells (also considered private
drinking water sources).
It describes types of activities in your area that can create threats to your water supply.This document also describes problems to look for and offers maintenance suggestions.
Sources for more information and help are also listed.
An original US EPA document was annotated, edited for clarity, expanded, and illustrated. We also add links to greater detail. As just one example, where the original document noted that the distance from a well to possible sources of contamination are important, we add WELL CLEARANCE DISTANCES. Initial document ource: EPA 816-K-02-003 January 2002, updated here through February 2013. 
All of us need clean water to drink. We can go for weeks without food, but only days without water. Contaminated water can be a threat to
anyone's health, but especially to young children.
About 15 percent of Americans have their own sources of drinking water, such as wells, cisterns, and springs. 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 through pipes
to the community.
To help protect families with their own wells, almost all states license or register water-well installers. Most also have construction
standards for home wells. In addition, some city and county health departments have local rules and permitting.
All this helps make sure
the well is built properly. But what about checking to see that it is working correctly and the water is always healthy to drink? That is
the job of the well owner, and it takes some work and some knowledge.
This article series also answers the question: Who is responsible for making sure that the drinking water from a private well is safe?
What Is Ground Water And How Can It Be Polluted?
Ground water is a resource found under the earth's surface. Most ground water comes from rain and melting snow soaking into the ground.
Water fills the spaces between rocks and soils, making an "aquifer". (See Watershed Graphic.) About half of our nation's drinking water
comes from ground water. Most is supplied through public drinking water systems. But many families rely on private, household wells and
use ground water as their source of fresh water.
Ground water - its depth from the surface, quality for drinking water, and chance of being polluted - varies from place to place.
Generally, the deeper the well, the better the ground water. The amount of new water flowing into the area also affects ground water
Ground water may contain some natural impurities or contaminants, even with no human activity or pollution. Natural contaminants can come
from many conditions in the watershed or in the ground.
Water moving through underground rocks and soils may pick up magnesium, calcium and
chlorides. Some ground water naturally contains dissolved elements such as arsenic, boron, selenium, or radon, a gas formed by the natural
breakdown of radioactive uranium in soil. Whether these natural contaminants are health problems depends on the amount of the substance
Definition of watershed:
A "watershed" is the land area where water soaks through the earth filling an underground water supply or aquifer. It is also
called a recharge area.
Definition of water table:
The "water table" is the line below which the ground is saturated or filled with water and available for pumping.
The water table will fall during dry seasons. A well can pump water from either the saturated zone or an aquifer. Wells must be deep
enough to remain in the saturated zone.
List of common sources of ground water [or well water] contamination
In addition to natural contaminants, ground water is often polluted by human activities such as
Improper use of fertilizers, animal manures, herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides
Improperly built or poorly located and/or maintained septic systems for household wastewater [see SEPTIC SYSTEMS]
Leaking or abandoned underground storage tanks and piping [see OIL TANKS]
Storm-water drains that discharge chemicals to ground water
Improper disposal or storage of wastes
Chemical spills at local industrial sites
These problems are discussed in greater detail later in this article series.
Suburban growth is bringing businesses, factories and industry (and potential sources of pollution) into once rural areas where families
often rely on household wells. Growth is also pushing new home developments onto the edge of rural and agricultural areas.
water and sewer lines do not extend to these areas. Many new houses rely on wells and septic tanks. But the people buying them may not
have any experience using these systems.
Is groundwater safe to drink?
Most U.S. ground water is safe for human use. However, ground water contamination has been found in all 50 states, so well owners have
reason to be vigilant in protecting their water supplies. Well owners need to be aware of potential health problems. They need to test
their water regularly and maintain their wells to safeguard their families' drinking water.
What is the Hydrologic Cycle?
The hydrologic cycle is the natural process of rain and snow falling to earth and evaporating back to form clouds and fall again.
The water falling to earth flows into streams, rivers, lakes and into the soil collecting to form ground water.
This EPA pamphlet, annotated & expanded in this article series, helps answer these questions.
It gives you general information about drinking water from home wells (also considered private
drinking water sources). It describes types of activities in your area that can create threats to your water supply
. It also describes problems to look for and offers maintenance suggestions. Sources for more information and help are also listed.
[Editing for clarity by DF are marked by brackets or italics] Initial Source: EPA 816-K-02-003 January 2002
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Questions & answers or comments about the definition of groundwater & about the sources of groundwater contamination.
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1-Bromo-3-chloro-5,5-dimethylhydantoin (C5H6BrClN2O2) is produced world-wide and is also used in cleaners and bathroom disinfectants and deodorizers. Here is an example MSDS for this product, provided by Leisure Time
"Bacteria in Drinking Water" - "Chlorine," Karen Mancl, water quality specialist, Agricultural Engineering, Ohio State University Extension. Mancl explains factors affecting the effectiveness of chlorine in water as a means to destroy bacteria and other microorganisms. OSU reports as follows:
Chlorine kills bacteria, including disease-causing organisms and the nuisance organism, iron bacteria. However, low levels of chlorine, normally used to disinfect water, are not an effective treatment for giardia cysts. A chlorine level of over 10 mg/1 must be maintained for at least 30 minutes to kill giardia cysts. -- http://ohioline.osu.edu/b795/index.html is the front page of this bulletin
"Chemicals and Our Health", Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, 16 July 2009, p. 27. This outstanding editorial calls for improvements in public health policy to address phthalates and other environmental contaminants from common chemicals and products in everyday use. - DJ Friedman
Crystal Clear Supply provides portable ceramic water filter purifiers and portable reverse osmosis water treatment equipment - see http://www.crystalclearsupply.com/category_s/7.htm
Endocrine Disruptor Exchange, Dr. theo Colborn (also see Our Stolen Future). From that website: The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc. is the only organization that focuses primarily on the human health and environmental problems caused by low-dose and/or ambient exposure to chemicals that interfere with development and function, called endocrine disruptors. ... TEDX's work focuses on the endocrine system, which is the exquisitely balanced system of glands and hormones that regulates such vital functions as body growth, response to stress, sexual development and behavior, production and utilization of insulin, rate of metabolism, intelligence and behavior. Hormones are chemicals such as insulin, thyroxin, estrogen, and testosterone that interact with specific target cells. The interactions occur through a number of mechanisms, the easiest of which to conceptualize is through a lock and key arrangement.
Giardia exposure limits for drinking water: see www.mass.gov/dep/water/drinking/standards/giardia.htm is the current regulatory exposure limit (your minimum target for
Health Effects of Chemical Contaminants in Drinking Water, US Environmental Protection Agency,
Hydrogen peroxide: Wikipedia on history of use of hydrogen peroxide: Information on Hydrogen peroxide as a sterilant is in Wikipedia at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sterilization_(microbiology) HO2 has been
used for a long time, including by vaporization for sterilizing freeze dryers.
Hydrogen Peroxide warning: US FDA Warning about drinking hydrogen peroxide: www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/h/hydrogen-peroxide.htm This article cites a 2003 entry in Journal
of Food and Science on using Hy.Perox to sterilize vegetables, referring to E.coli - NOT to Giardia.
Iodine: "Do Iodine Water Purification Tablets Provide an Effective Barrier against Cryptosporidium parvum?", Starke, Jeffrey A., Bowman, Dwight D., Labare, Michael, Fogarty, Elizabeth A., and others, Military Medicine, 25 October 2001 [possibly a later version of this article appeared in 2005 -DF] http://www.amsus.org/military medicine/milmed.htm
Ohio State University article on the concentration of chlorine necessary to act as an effective disinfectant, and the effects of the water's pH and temperature: See http://ohioline.osu.edu/b795/b795_7.html for details.
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?--A Scientific Detective Story, Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, John Peter Meyers. Plume-Penguin Publishing, 1997, ISBN 0-452-27414-1., ISBN13: 9780452274143. This book is a seminal work on endocrine disruptors (chemical contaminants having impact at extremely low levels in the environment).
Recommended by Daniel Friedman, this book is a critical update to the landmark Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and discusses the effects of minute trace amounts of chemical contaminants in the environment. The text "Identifies the various ways in which chemical pollutants in the environment are disrupting human reproductive patterns and causing such problems as birth defects, sexual abnormalities, and reproductive failure. Reprint. Tour. NYT."
Amazon.com Review: By O T (Ontario, BC) - 'Our Stolen Future' is a great introduction to one of the most important scientific discoveries in our time. Having recently completed a thesis project at university on Endocrine Disruptors, I have reviewed hundreds of papers on the subject. This book is a good clear overview of the scientific literature on EDs. The authors are experts - Theo Colborn is largely responsible for creating the field by bringing together diverse researchers so they could see the big picture of their work. Many of the principle investigators are interviewed and quoted at length on the way chemicals participate in and interfere with delicate hormonal systems in animals (including humans). The major accomplishment of the book is to make an easy-to-follow story out of complex research. Many resources are available to help you assess the reliability of this story, and the best thing to do if you have any doubts is read review articles in scientific journals (which are easier to understand than technical papers). The Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) have a guidebook for health-care professionals on Endocrine Disruptors, and the US EPA has many reports on the matter. Beware of people or websites who try to 'debunk' this book (or the science behind it) by simply declaring it false, flawed or disproven. There is far too much supporting research for so simple a refutation.
OPINION: Significant and discussed in this book is the observation that at certain critical points in the development of animals, presumably including humans, exposure to extremely low levels of endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDC's) (such as BPA - Bisphenol-A or BPA, Diethylstilbestrol - DES, dioxins, PCBs, and chemicals used in the production of certain cleansers, dyes, flame retardants, plastics, pesticides, white papers ) perhaps just a few molecules, or in the parts per trillion, is sufficient to cause disruption of the animal's development, including proper sex differentiation, or the lack of it that produced androgynous ducks unable to reproduce under such conditions.
A endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical compound that mimics natural hormones when it is taken into the body of a human or other animal. It "disrupts" the endocrine system by turning on or off normal chemical signals that in turn can affect normal hormone levels, bodily functions, and significantly, the development of embryos. Further, unlike naturally occurring hormones ingested, for example from plants (phytoestrogens), synthetically-generated hormones accumulate in the body and can have a half-life of decades or longer.
One significance of this finding includes the observation that an important medical effect that occurs with exposure to chemicals in extremely low concentrations means that experiments to test for correlations between chemical exposure and subsequent serious medical problems will be deeply flawed if, for example, the experimental design does not include testing for the presence of the chemical at extremely low levels. A related concern is that even if harmful effects from exposure to extremely low concentrations of an endocrine disruptor are occurring, teasing out and proving that relationship can be also extremely difficult.
Silent Spring, Rachael Carson, Mariner Books; Anv edition (October 22, 2002), ISBN-13: 978-061824906.
Silent Spring, released in 1962, offered the first shattering look at widespread ecological degradation and touched off an environmental awareness that still exists. Rachel Carson's book focused on the poisons from insecticides, weed killers, and other common products as well as the use of sprays in agriculture, a practice that led to dangerous chemicals to the food source. Carson argued that those chemicals were more dangerous than radiation and that for the first time in history, humans were exposed to chemicals that stayed in their systems from birth to death. Presented with thorough documentation, the book opened more than a few eyes about the dangers of the modern world and stands today as a landmark work.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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