Many rural communities depend on wells and septic sewer systems. As more and more homeowners look to purchase properties beyond the reach of municipal water lines, it is vital that real estate professionals have an understanding of wells and septic sewers. Being informed about the various types of wells and proper water testing procedures, can help to give clients a clear understanding of one of the most vital components of a rural property.
TYPES OF WELLS
Driven wells are the easiest and fastest wells to construct. They are basically a pipe that can be driven into the ground with hand or power tools to a depth of 50 feet or more into the ground to the water table. They are frequently used for cabins and vacation homes, but can effectively be used for year round homes as well. This type of well consists of a pipe, a pump and the point/screen assembly. The well point is a specially designed section of pipe which taps into the aquifer (water table) being used as a source. Above the ground, the well is capped with a traditional hand pump.
Bored wells can be dug with a powered auger to a depth of about 125 feet if required. Once the hole is dug (usually a 10″ bore would have a casing with 2″ of gravel packing around it). They are capped with a single pipe jet pump and reinforced with a concrete cover away from the pump. The water flow rate is greater in a bored well than a dug well, because the depth of a narrow well will draw more water than a wider more shallow well.
Jetted wells are formed by using a powerful flow of water to bore a hole in the earth. Jetting is most often used for shallow wells, up to 25 feet deep. Once the well is dug, a casing is slipped down into the hole which becomes the route for the water to be drawn up. Jetted wells are more effective than drilled wells where the soil conditions permit easy penetration.
Dug Wells consist of a hole in the ground that is lined with brick, stone, concrete block or steel. The lower portion of the liner, which sits in the aquifer, is pierced to allow water to enter. The upper portion of the well casing is water tight. This type of well usually has a wall about three feet high above the ground surface and is often covered by a small roof. Water traditionally was drawn by bucket from dug wells, but modern dug wells can be sealed at or below ground level, when used with a modern pumping system and can be completely hidden from sight.
Protect yourself! Always have wells, cisterns or septic sewer systems inspected!!
In this area, water sources tapped well below the ground, often test clearer and purer than municipal water sources. In many cases, contamination occurs from improper pump installation, which allows rain water and ground water run off to enter the well. When a well is originally dug, it is usually disinfected with a chlorine treatment. After that point, the water must be kept in a closed system to prevent re-contamination from outside sources. The most commonly used chlorine system for disinfecting small well sources are calcium hypochloride and sodium hypochloride. These products are available at most swimming pools supply stores.
There are several types of equipment that will automatically introduce chlorine into a water supply, called hypochlorinators. They can be set up to work with the pump or directly into the well. Any chemicals should be used carefully and according to correct mixing portions. To find out if a water supply contains sufficient chlorine, it must be tested. The test is called a DPN colorimetric test. It is done by placing a pill of chemicals in a test tube full of water. Your local health or water department can tell you how to obtain such a test kit.
ODORS, RESIDUE AND METALLIC TASTES
Tastes and odors in the water can be indicators of a variety of contaminants. The presence of iron and manganese is a common problem with well water. This condition can be spotted by a reddish brown residue on the walls of sinks, tubs and toilets. The water will have a metallic taste. There are many different ways to treat for mineral and corrosion control. Qualified professionals are needed to analyze each situation to devise a healthy and workable conditioning system.
Once a well is put into service, minimal maintenance is required if the original analysis of the water was satisfactory. If the water was originally unpotable, a water purifying system can be added at the service end of the well. Ground water is less likely to harbor pathogens, but apt to contain undesirable tastes and odors.
The best way to protect yourself from water contamination is to check the proposed well site carefully. Check for any possible sources of contamination: septic tanks, drainage ditches, barns or feed lots. The minimum separation requirement between a well and a contamination source is fifty feet. Any well or septic sewer system should be inspected and tested. Though water may appear clear, cold, and sparkling clean, it may contain contaminants which are tasteless and odorless. Local health departments should know the current sanitary condition of the aquifers beneath your property. You can even request a complete sanitary survey.
Cost: The cost to dig a well varies according to the type of well and the water requirements of the homeowner.
Regardless of the type of well, the installation of the pump (in Ontario) must be done by a pump technician, licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Environment.