What is Meant By Cleaning a Residential Water Well

 Cleaning bacteria from a waterwell

Cleaning bacteria from a waterwell

As a private well owner, it is your responsibility to maintain your water supply. Along with annual testing, you should periodically have your well systems checked to determine its overall health. 

"Cleaning a Water Well" is a term the public often uses to describe the process of removing bacteria through chlorination or eliminating sediment caused by iron and manganese particle settlement. If you suspect you have these problems, there are obvious signs that your water well may need a thorough cleaning. These can include:

  • Turbidity or water cloudy at the faucet and  suspended solids.
  • Decreased Capacity and a reduction in water pressure or availability.
  • Bad Odors/Taste – water with a smell or "off" taste.
  • Water Test Results that showed positive for fecal coliform and overall bacterial activity.

These signs mean it is time to call your qualified water well system specialist to determine if your well needs to be cleaned, or if there may be other issues.

Why Does My Well Need To Be Cleaned?

The top two reasons your well may need cleaning are bacteria and encrustation. In the upper area of your well the presence of oxygen encourages aerobic bacterial growth and the oxidation of metals. Aerobic bacteria can cause clogging by producing large amounts of slime that can entrap oxidized iron and manganese as well as other minerals that may be present.

Debris from activity at the upper portion of the well tends to settle and accumulate at the bottom. Water at the bottom of the well can become oxygen depleted due to chemical reactions and bacteria creating an environment where anaerobic bacteria (that does not need oxygen) can flourish. The anaerobic bacterium is often responsible for unpleasant tastes and odors in your homes water. These biological and chemical activities can also create encrustation. This is the formation of a crust or coating on the well intake or casing.

Costs of Operating a Compromised Well

A well in need of cleaning can be more expensive to operate. For example, a clogged well screen can reduce the flow of water causing the pump to work harder and less efficiently. The result is higher electrical costs and unnecessary wear on the pump. The bottom line, proper maintenance of your well gives you a positive payoff in both extended pump life and water system life. It can also reduce the impacts on your home’s plumbing, fixtures, and appliances.

How Your System is Cleaned

Some well owners see chlorination as a fix for water problems. Chlorination may temporarily eliminate taste and odor issues; it can also leave behind debris or accumulated organic materials. This debris is the food for future bacterial growth. For iron slime problems, chlorination is a short-term fix at best.

There a two processes for cleaning your well, mechanical and chemical. The most effective strategy is a combination of the two. Both methods offer a variety of options. The best solution is to consult with your well contractor water specialist. The experts at Skillings & Sons can help you decide which method is best for your situation.

Mechanical processes include wire brushes or scrapers, agitation, sonic waves and pressurized air or water. Hydro-fracturing and well deepening may need to be employed as well. Chemical cleaning can involve the use of various acids, or alkaloids to dissolve or otherwise loosen debris which is then pumped out of the well. Your contractor takes various factors into consideration including the age of the well. If your water intake areas have corroded significantly, they may be damaged by more aggressive methods. In this case, it may, in fact, be more cost-effective to proceed directly to well deepening or drilling a new water well.

Talk with your well water contractor. They will analyze the situation and give you a range of possible solutions to meet your needs and budget.