It’s estimated that more than 13 million households in the United States rely on private wells for drinking water. If you own a water well and a septic system, it’s crucial that your drinking water isn’t contaminated. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t regulate or provide standards for individual wells, but it does offer a variety of educational resources
. Ultimately, private owners are responsible for the safety of their water.
Learn how to protect your well from septic system contamination, safeguarding your household from harmful substances in the drinking water.
What is a Water Well?
Many rural homes have a private well rather than water that’s supplied and treated by a municipality (aka ‘tap water’). A water well is an excavation or structure that’s dug into the ground to access water in underground aquifers. Private wells typically require a water softener due to minerals found in the soil and rocks.
Water wells run the risk of contamination from natural contaminates (e.g. radon, arsenic) as well as agricultural runoff and septic tanks. The EPA recommends testing wells
at least once per year as the quality of well water can change so you can have peace of mind about your water’s safety.
How a Septic System Can Affect Well Water
A properly installed and maintained septic system
is crucial for protecting well water. A malfunction or faulty installation is a major risk to water quality. This is because the groundwater that runs underneath the 'drainfield' (which filters the septic tank’s wastewater) will capture any contaminants remaining in the effluent as it passes through the drainfeld.
Contaminated water poses a particular health risk to vulnerable populations such as pregnant mothers, young children, and the elderly. Consider installing a reverse osmosis water system to significantly reduce trace elements, heavy metals, and bacteria.
It’s also important that the well is properly installed and maintained to protect the drinking water. For example, the well should be installed far enough away from the septic system. Additionally, some states and local governing agencies have minimum length requirements for the 'casing,' which keeps dirt and excess water out of the well.
Inspection and Maintenance Are Vital
Safeguard your home’s drinking water by getting your well and septic system regularly inspected and serviced. If you’re moving into an older home, make sure that the water well and septic system meet current standards so you don’t run the risk of water contamination. You should also regularly schedule septic tank pumping
to prevent overloading your drainfield. Lastly, test your water at least once per year for peace of mind that it’s safe to drink.