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Using well water for home use goes without much thought for many people in New England. But for first-time homebuyers and those used to living along public water and sewer lines, buying a home with a well can be intimidating. Understanding the benefits and challenges of the different types of residential wells can help real estate agents provide homebuyers with the information they need and put minds at ease.
Types of wells
Homes draw water from one of two types of wells: bedrock and shallow. Knowing what type of well a home has will help a real estate agents and homeowner determine what kind of problems could arise over the course of their ownership.
Most of the wells in New Hampshire are bedrock wells, also known as artesian wells. These wells are drilled deep into the ground and draw from water that flows through fractures in the bedrock. From 2000 to 2010, an average of 4,350 bedrock wells were drilled in New Hampshire each year.
Bedrock wells have very few incidents of bacterial contamination, but are more susceptible to naturally occurring contaminants, like radon, arsenic or hardness. Bedrock wells can also be more expensive to drill and run because of their depth.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services recently issues an alert, recommending homeowners with private wells get their water tested. A U.S. Geological Survey revealed that up to 80,000 residents in Hillsborough, Rockingham, and Strafford counties alone may have unhealthy levels of one or more toxic metals in their drinking water. These are naturally occurring contaminants, such as arsenic, that are harmful at certain levels. Arsenic is known to cause cancer of the skin, lung, bladder, liver, and kidneys, and other serious diseases. Parents should be especially careful of naturally occurring water contaminants, since some have shown to cause cognitive problems in children.
The NH DES recommends homeowners, even those with water softeners, get their water tested every 3 to 5 years.
Wells that are less than 50-feet deep and are constructed above the bedrock are called dug wells. They are also referred to as shallow wells, wash wells or gravel wells. Drilling an effective dug well depends on the soil type – they are often surrounded by sandy gravel.
The good news is that shallow wells are less likely to experience naturally occurring contamination from radon or arsenic. The bad news is they are more susceptible to bacteria contamination. Shallow wells can also experience iron, manganese and taste and odor problems.
Since shallow wells take water from the highest water table, they are sensitive to activities that take place on the ground above. Improperly applying fertilizer or pesticides, inappropriate disposal of motor oil, solvents, and other harmful substances, or living close to an industrial area could all put your well at risk.
Testing and treating private well water
Testing water for contaminants is easy for new homeowners and many well water treatment options are relatively affordable and easy to maintain. The state laboratory can test for 13 water quality factors, such as bacteria and radon. It takes about three weeks to process in the summer and two weeks the rest of the year. Skillings & Sons can advise homeowners on how to take the samples, the containers to use and other questions they have.
Skillings & Sons can also discuss water treatment options with homeowners if contaminants are found and recommend maintenance and testing schedules to make sure the system they choose is working effectively for years to come. Finding the proper treatment options to remove the specific contaminants is important, so real estate agents should recommend hiring a professional water system expert when making this important decision.
Would you like a representative from Skillings & Sons, Inc. to visit your real estate firm?
At our free lunch and learn you will learn about;
• FHA flow rate requirements
• How to find and spot a problem well
• Solving poor water pressure problems
• Eliminating bacteria, arsenic and radon