According the University of Maryland, about 33.3 percent of all Maryland residents, or just over two million people, rely on private wells for their drinking water supply. Private wells can suffer from many of the same pollution problems as municipal water systems, with elevated levels of bacteria, viruses, pesticides, nitrates, heavy metals, and other contaminants.
However, unless a well serves more than 25 people, it does not need to be monitored according to federal or state laws. This leaves the responsibility of testing for and treating contamination to the well owner, and the EPA recommends testing well water at least once a year.
Well Water Contaminants
Because private wells are not required to be tested, the available data on well water contaminants is not as readily available as it is for municipal systems. In a study performed by the University of Maryland, 150 private wells were tested in Cecil, Kent, Montgomery, and Queen Anne’s County. The water from each was analyzed for total coliforms, fecal coliforms, E. Coli, Enterococcus, pH levels, nitrates, and arsenic. The study found that:
- 25 percent of wells had coliform bacteria present
- 15 percent had fecal coliform contamination
- 5 percent tested positive for E. Coli
- 5 percent tested positive for Enterococcus
- The average nitrate level was 2.3 mg/L, also below EPA limits.
- 75 percent of wells were outside of the recommended pH range
Overall, the study found that the levels were below the maximum EPA limits for these contaminants, meaning that the water was safe to drink. Groundwater studies from private wells in the Baltimore County area also show the water is below EPA levels for contaminants, but they indicate that 15 percent of wells have elevated levels of radionucleotides, such as Radium-226, as well as increasing levels of MTBE, a gasoline additive, and trace levels of pesticides.
Well contamination can vary highly from area to area, and it can change over time from pollution sources like agricultural runoff, sewage leaks, and chemical spills. Other possible contaminants include:
- Heavy metals that can cause poisoning or illnesses
- Magnesium and calcium that cause hard water
- Acidic water that can cause corrosion and leach lead from pipes
- Petroleum products and additives
- Chemicals, nitrates, and pesticides
- Sulfur compounds that cause odors
- And more
To ensure that your Maryland home has safe, healthy water, you should have your well tested as often as possible, or at least once a year. If any problems are found, treatment solutions like water softeners, reverse osmosis, or UV sterilization may be able to correct the problem.
Water Testing & Treatment in the Baltimore, MD Area
If you are concerned about the quality of your well water, contact our team at Water Doctor today. We offer well water testing and analysis, as well as a full selection of water treatment solutions, from water softeners and active charcoal filtration to complete reverse osmosis systems. We have been serving homeowners and businesses throughout Maryland since 1979, and our experts are happy to help with all your water quality concerns.
Contact Water Doctor today at 877-677-9275 to schedule a well water test at your home or to learn more about our water treatment services!