Well Water Contaminants FAQ: Sediment

Water Well Contamination FAQ's Sand & Sediment

Sand or sediment in your well water is a common problem for many homeowners. Sand, silt and other contaminants like rust can occasionally enter your well and be released from your faucet. This issue can have several causes including a lowered water table, pump depth, or failure of various well components such as the filter screen or the well pump itself. 

While mostly an inconvenience, sediment in your water can eventually wear out your equipment  leading to  pump failure and the need for replacement. If caught early, it's possible to remedy the problem and the fix could be as easy as relocating your pump higher in the well. 

Because there can be many causes for sediment to appear in your water supply it's usually best to give your well water contractor a call. They can help you to determine the cause and offer a number of remedies to resolve the problem.

Here are some of the questions we're most frequently asked about sediment and a few options to remedy the problem.

What is sediment?

Sediment consists of various materials most commonly sand, silt, grit or rust. If your well is pumping fine sand it may be an indicator that your well is filling in with sand and silt. Sediment can also show up as rust or can contain other minerals deposited into your aquifer through natural processes.

How did I get sediment in my water supply?

Flooding or a ground disturbance can cause sediment to be deposited into your aquifer. Iron entering your water supply either through natural processes like bacterial elimination can also be a cause as can other minerals leaching from the surrounding soil into your aquifer. Sediment can be an indicator that there may be a problem with your well pump or other elements like filters or filter screens. For example, as your well fills with sand the pump is closer to the bottom of the water table. It can suck sand and silt into the system where it will be released at your tap. 

What are the health effects of sediment?

It really depends on the composition of the sediment. If your faucet is expelling sand or fine sand particles it may be more of a nuisance rather than a health issue. That being said, sediment can also be caused by the natural processes of potential disease causing organisms like bacteria and viruses. In addition If turbidity from manmade activities caused the sediment, bacteria can thrive and multiply creating potential health problems. Other contaminants can also cause sediment in your well water. Iron bacteria can create a gelatinous film. Black specks can be caused by manganese present in the water. Silt can also contain PCBs, chlorides, sulfates, and dangerous bacteria like E.coli.

The most common health issues are flu-like symptoms and mild gastrointestinal distress, however if the sediment contains dangerous bacteria or viruses the health problems can be more serious.

If my water contains visible sediment, sand, or silt should I have it tested?

As mentioned above, if the sediment present is visibly sand, it is more of a nuisance than a health hazard, however you should have your water tested annually for contaminants as a general practice. If your sediment problem is serious, or creates an unpleasant odor or foul taste, immediate water testing is a good idea. As a homeowner if you have a private well you are responsible for the safety of your water supply. Anytime you have a question about the quality of your water supply, you should consider testing. 

What should I do if sediment is present in my well water?

Sediment can be caused by a number of different sources and is treatable. Because some of the sources may be mechanical you should contact your well water professional for diagnosis and advice. For example, sand present in the water can be caused by your well slowly filling with sand and sediment, a pump that is too strong for your well, a failing pump, failing filter screens or a temporary problem like turbidity caused by nearby home construction or mining. The solution could be as simple as moving the pump higher in the well, or as complex as treating a potential bacterial problem or equipment failure. 

Your best option is to contact your a Skillings & Sons well water professional. They can determine the cause or if further testing is needed. If sand is reaching your home's plumbing and has been for a long time there are point-of-entry filtration systems that can remove it. You well water professional can explain your options after examining your system. Remember, the health of your well is your responsibility as the homeowner. Test your water annually and speak with your well water professional if you suspect any problems.