FAQ's on Bacteria Contamination and Water Wells

If you receive water from a private well, you’re in the unique position of controlling your water supply. This is a huge benefit, which comes with a big responsibility. You handle protecting this valuable resource and your family’s health. Occasionally, you may see a news report, or notice a change in your home’s water, like a change in color or taste. This means you need to take action. Testing for common contaminants is a smart way to determine if there is a problem and how best to address it.

Bacteria And Well Contamination

Pure water doesn’t exist in nature. All natural water contains some trace gasses, minerals and naturally occurring microbial organisms. Most of the time, they are harmless and will not affect your health. Some minerals and bacteria can even be beneficial. Unfortunately, you may occasionally find bacteria or contaminants that pose a risk. The solution comes through water testing.

While often harmless bacteria can be found in your well, there are several strains that can cause problems ranging from simple plumbing issues to mild irritation, and in severe instances serious health damage or even death. Unfortunately, you cannot easily tell the difference between safe and unsafe organisms. They are invisible to the naked eye, often do not create any telltale signs and can only be detected through laboratory testing. That’s why it’s important to test your water well regularly. Some sources of odor may be related to microbial organisms, septic leaching or chemicals, so if you smell something “fishy”, it’s a good practice to test immediately. These are not issues to be taken lightly!


There are many naturally occurring organisms that can be present in drinking water that are different strains of the same family, like coliform bacteria. All originate as organisms in the soil, vegetation, or the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals. Most are completely harmless, but some strains such as E-coli can make you extremely sick or can even be fatal in high enough doses. Testing can determine if E-coli is present and allow you to take corrective measures.

Another common problem is iron biofouling, popularly called “iron bacteria.” This problem is complex and widespread and consists of biofilms that include living and dead organisms, their sheaths, stalks and other leavings, and embedded metal hydroxide particles. While these biofilms are harmless when ingested, they can create a nuisance in the form of iron buildup in pipes and wells.

Finally, it’s important to understand that these organisms are naturally occurring and can take the time to build up to dangerous levels. Often, they end up in wells through the natural process of surface water migrating through soil and rocks to your aquifer. Non-native coliform bacteria like ecoli, or protozoans such as Giardia or Cryptosporidium are likely from surface contamination traveling to your aquifer through natural processes.


Fall is a great time to test your water annually for radon, microbial organisms, and other contaminants. Even if there appears to be no change in your water, it’s important to uncover and address problems early and having a consistent record of testing is beneficial if you eventually sell your home. Annual testing can alert you to potential problems long before they become critical. Call us to speak with a well water specialist and set up a testing schedule. It’s a smart way to protect your family and keep your drinking water clean, fresh and available!

Contact Skillings & Sons for further information on water treatment, water testing, and solutions to all of your water contamination problems.