23 Signs Well Water Might Be Contaminated
Roughly 45 million (15%) Americans consume drinking water from private water wells, but according to studies conducted by the US Geological Services (USGS), nearly one out of four wells has potentially dangerous levels of contaminants from either natural or manmade sources.
Not all hazards provide perceptible clues, but many do. Here are some common signs your water might be contaminated.
Visual Cues. If your water looks:
- Foamy, it signals the presence of detergents, other cleaning agents and/or diluted sewage water.
- Milky, it can be due to high levels of particulate matter or the presence of methane gas.
- Reddish or brown, it indicates high levels of iron or rust.
- Cloudy, it’s likely due to clay, dirt, sand or organic matter.
- Yellow, it’s often the result of tannins from soils or vegetation.
If your water creates:
- White deposits, lime scale or soap scum, it’s caused by hard water with high levels of calcium, magnesium, etc.
- Blue-green stains on fixtures, it suggests brass or copper pipes in the system may be corroding.
- Black pitting on sinks and fixtures, it may be caused by gas or high levels of manganese.
Odor Cues. If your water smells like:
- Bleach or chlorine, it indicates chloramines or chlorine.
- Detergent, it indicates foaming or cleaning agents.
- Grass or chlorophyll, it can be a sign there’s grass in the well, but it’s more likely to be algae overgrowth.
- Musty soil, it indicates the presence of algae, vegetation or other organic matter.
- Oil, it indicates petroleum products such as gas, oil, diesel, etc.
- Rotten eggs, it indicates high levels of hydrogen sulfide, a colorless flammable natural gas, and may be a sign there’s sewage in the water.
- Rubber, it indicates deteriorating rubber components.
- Something sweet or pungent, it can be due to algae or m-xylene.
Taste Cues. If your water tastes:
- Astringent, it may indicate the presence of chemicals.
- Like chemicals, it can be caused by pesticides, acetone or volatile compounds.
- Gritty, it indicates the presence of sand or sediment.
- Metallic, it signals high levels of metal, most likely from corroding pipes.
- Moldy, it’s likely due to algae or mold.
- Plastic, it can indicate a leaking underground storage tank or an interaction between chorine in the water and the food-grade grease used to seal new plumbing pipes.
- Stale, it’s most commonly a sign the water’s been sitting in the pipes too long.
Water that looks, smells or tastes off may not be dangerous, but where your family’s health and safety is concerned, it’s smarter to be safe rather than sorry. If you suspect contamination, immediately arrange for thorough, professional well water tests.