Well Water Contaminants FAQ: Bacteria

Frequently asked questions about bacteria contamination in well water.

Frequently asked questions about bacteria contamination in well water.

Perfectly pure water doesn't exist in nature. All of the fresh water on earth contains some trace gasses, minerals, naturally occurring microbial organisms and other water contaminants.  Sometimes you'll see a news report about an outbreak of e-Coli or giardella which can cause gastrointestinal problems and flu-like symptoms. Sometimes you may notice a change in your water quality like cloudiness, or a change in color or taste. These are signs that you need to take action and test your well.

Most microbial contaminants occur naturally and cannot always be detected through sight smell or taste. In fact, you can often go for years without knowing they are present! Most are harmless, and some are even beneficial. There are however a few that can cause illness, and some are more dangerous to your health than others.

What follows are some frequently asked questions and answers about bacteria and other microbial contaminants and what to do, if they're, is present in your drinking water.

What Is Bacteria?

Bacteria is one form of microbial organisms that live in water. While most are harmless or even beneficial, some can cause illness. There are three types of microbial contaminants you should be aware of:

Bacteria – Single-celled living organisms that reproduce through cell division or spores. Can be free-living or parasitic, they break down waste and dead organisms for reuse. Cells range from 1 to 10 microns in size, and they exist almost everywhere.

Viruses – Parasitic, infectious microbes composed of protein and nucleic acid, they can cause disease in humans. Can only reproduce in living cells and are tiny ranging from .004 to .1 microns in size, about 100X smaller than bacteria.

Cysts – Cysts are protein sacs produced by protozoans and bacteria as they enter the reproductive stage. Very resistant to disinfection and destruction.Fortunately, their large size (from 2 to 50 microns) allows them to be removed from water using fine filtration.

How Does Bacteria Get Into My Drinking Water?

Bacteria occurs in nature, and some are present in all drinking water. It can end up in good water through the natural process of surface water migrating through soil and rocks on its way to underground aquifers. Non-native coliform bacteria like e-Coli or protozoans like Giardella or Cryptosporidium most likely came from surface contamination that traveled to aquifers through natural processes.

What Are The Health Effects Of Bacteria In Drinking Water?

Most bacteria found in good water is harmless. However, there are several forms of bacteria that can cause health issues ranging from mild irritation to severe reactions, serious health damage, even death. Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell the difference. Bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, do not create any telltale signs like staining, and can only be detected through laboratory testing. Bacteria and protozoa are not to be taken lightly. While most harmful bacteria will cause minor non-life threatening issues like gastrointestinal problems or flu-like symptoms, some, like e-Coli can result in serious health problems, even death.

Should I test My Well Water For Bacteria?

Yes. Annual testing can often detect bacterial issues before they become problematic. Some sources of odor may be related to bacterial contamination, septic leaching, or chemicals so if you smell something, it's a good practice to test immediately When in doubt, test your well!

What To Do If Bacteria Is Present In Drinking Water?

Treatment options are available for dealing with microbes like bacteria, viruses, cysts, and protozoa. Chemical treatment uses chlorine, bromine or ozone. Physical treatments include UV light, ultrafiltration, and distillation. These methods are all 99.99% effective in removing harmful microorganisms.

The best option is to speak with a water professional at Skillings & Sons. They can give you information on both the dangers of bacterial exposure and the various treatment options available. Remember, your good health is your responsibility. Annual testing can ensure the health and safety of your family and provide you with peace of mind.