Well Water Contamination - Dissolved Metals
When testing your private well it's not uncommon to find trace levels of dissolved metals in your test results. Metals are inorganic compounds that occur in natural geologic formations. Some like calcium, magnesium, and sodium are essential for life and are naturally available in our food and water often in trace amounts. Cobalt, copper, iron selenium and zinc are necessary at low levels as catalysts for digestive enzymatic function.
Other metals like aluminum, arsenic, lead, barium, cadmium mercury and selenium, when found in drinking water, can cause chronic or acute poisoning when ingested, even in small amounts, as they can accumulate in the body over time.
Water Contamination: How Metals Get Into Your Drinking Water
Metals in your water supply can occur naturally or as the result of water contamination from man-made sources. Naturally occurring metals are the result of rain percolating through soil and rock and dissolving as water travels from the surface to groundwater supplies. Water contamination by poisonous metals happens largely due to human activities. While some metals like arsenic are naturally occurring activities like industrial, agricultural and mining processes can result in pollution which enters the water supply through improper disposal of toxic substances.
The EPA has set maximum contaminant levels for many metals including arsenic, barium, chromium, lead, nickel and copper, to name just a few. Public water supplies are regularly monitored for hazardous metals. Private wells are not monitored or regulated. It is the responsibility of the well owner to test and treat water contamination.
Health Effects of Ingesting Metals
For some metals like arsenic and lead, the health effects are well known. The toxicity of most other metals is still being researched in terms of long-term health effects. Here are some of the common metals that may be found in your water supply along with their health effects.
• Aluminum – The most common metal in the earth's crust it is likely present at some level in most groundwater. The possible link between aluminum toxicity and nervous disorders is currently under study.
• Arsenic – Thanks to its former use in pesticides and it's occurrence in nature, arsenic is a problem and because it is odorless, colorless and tasteless, you should include it in your annual testing. Symptoms of chronic arsenic poisoning include weight loss, hair loss, nausea, white lines across toenails and fingernails, depression and chronic fatigue.
• Cadmium – Excessive doses of cadmium can damage the kidneys, cause high blood pressure and possibly genetic mutation.
• Calcium – One of the few metals with a positive health result, calcium is necessary for good health. Drinking water that contains calcium can provide a significant amount of the daily recommended intake and can help prevent osteoporosis, hypertension and cardiovascular disorders.
• Copper – In large doses copper can be dangerous to infants and people with metabolic disorders. Lack of copper can cause anemia, growth and blood circulation problems.
• Iron – while not a specific health hazard, iron can foster the growth of potentially pathogenic organisms that feed on iron.
• Lead – Lead is a cumulative poison. It remains in the body following exposure and is particularly dangerous to children under three. Minor symptoms include abdominal pains, decreased appetite, constipation, and fatigue. Long-term exposure can lead to serious kidney, nerve, brain damage and death.
• Magnesium – Frequently found along with calcium, magnesium is quickly expelled from the body in healthy adults. People with compromised kidney function may suffer from hypertension, confusion, muscle weakness, and coma.
• Sodium – a normal levels sodium is beneficial to healthy adults. However, people with heart disease or high blood pressure should reduce sodium intake.
Water Treatment Options
Luckily, there are methods available for removing some trace amounts of toxic metals from drinking water. Distillation, ion exchange, reverse osmosis and activated charcoal filtration are all effective. Systems can be expensive to purchase and most are installed as an independent water line (point of use) for consumption and cooking use.
If any metals are present because of leaching from plumbing there are several less expensive treatment options available. If you suffer from low pH special filters are available that use materials like calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide are available for neutralizing acid water.
Metal concentrations in tap water tend to be highest when the water has been resting in your pipes for a while. Before drinking any water in the morning, run your tap (cold water) for several minutes to flush any accumulated metals. Hot water can increase corrosion. Set hot water heaters only as high as necessary and to be safe hot water should not be used for drinking or cooking.
Water Contamination in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Southern Maine
If you live in New Hampshire, Massachusetts or Southern Maine and your water tests return high levels of metals, don't panic. This form of water contamination can be treated. Give the experts at Skillings & Sons a call. We understand the issues caused by metals in your water supply and we can help. Let us show you water treatment options that can address any issues you may have with your homes water supply.