Drill vs. Treat: Fixing Well Water Quality Issues

installing a water well

Publication: National Driller
Client: Water-Right Group
Original article

This ghostwritten contributed article established expertise and thought leadership for the client, helping the audience understand when water treatment skills come in handy. The client also had a goal of recruiting more well drillers to sell its residential water treatment products.

By Greg Gruett, VP of Sales, Water-Right

Residential well drillers and water treatment specialists serve the same customers and share similar goals: delivering quality water to the end user’s home. Both types of professionals play important roles in solving their customers’ water problems, but it helps to know when applying water treatment equipment is the answer and when you need to drill.

Any kind of water is treatable. However, there are times when it makes more sense to repair potential issues with a well, and other times that call for drilling a well in a new location. Here’s how to know where to start looking for the right solution.


When the Water Problem is Visible

With most wells, the groundwater comes out crystal clear thanks to Mother Nature being one of the best filters we have. I know a lot of well drillers who won’t guarantee they’ll hit water, but they do promise that if they find it, the water will be clear.

When you properly pack, seal and case a new well, that water should come out free of any visible particles. This means there is no sand, sediment, bacteria, milky appearance, reddish color from high levels of ferric iron, or turbidity.

If there is a visible issue with water quality, the water treatment professional is likely to question whether there might be something happening with the well. 

When water treatment experts encounter cloudy water, they should test for bacteria. The presence of bacteria is an indication that surface water might be entering the well.

While iron is a common problem with well water, it’s usually ferrous or dissolved iron. That’s because the soil and rock above the water table filter out most iron particles. There are some exceptions, as iron can become oxidized and transform from ferrous to ferric due to chlorination or a leak in the drop pipe. When the water contains dissolved iron, however, you’re going to need additional treatment to remove it.

When there are visible problems with the water, such as cloudiness after it rains or high bacteria counts, potential solutions well drillers provide include putting a packer down to seal off surface water or possibly fixing a hole in the drop pipe. Otherwise, if it’s irreparable, it may be necessary to relocate an existing well and drill a new one.


When the Water is Clear

Water is a powerful solvent. Given enough time, it will dissolve anything it touches, and chemists even call water the universal solvent. When there are “invisible water problems” caused by things such as dissolved minerals, the best option is treatment.

Of course, hardness is probably the most common situation with well water. A softener will remove the hard calcium and magnesium minerals through an ion exchange process. Most metals that are dissolved in water have a positive charge and can be removed through ion exchange. Ferrous iron can be removed this way, although it may require oxidation so that it turns into particles, which can be filtered out with the right media.

For wells with naturally occurring soft water, pH levels may be a concern. Without the alkaline minerals in hard water, your customer’s groundwater may be too acidic. This can cause issues, like pipe hole leaks or blue green stains, in metallic plumbing systems. Running acidic water through an acid neutralizer, which is a limestone bed that adds minimal hardness, balances pH levels.

Hydrogen sulfide is a familiar homeowner complaint because it produces that off-putting rotten egg smell. It can be effectively treated through special oxidation filters that backwash with catalytic carbon.

Synthetic zeolite has proven to be a very effective media for treating common well water quality problems including iron, iron bacteria, manganese, sulfur, unbalanced pH levels and hardness.

There can also be more serious contaminants in groundwater. While it’s highly uncommon to find lead in groundwater, naturally occurring arsenic in well water is a growing concern around the country. A reverse osmosis drinking water system or some type of specialized media is the ideal solution for arsenic and other potentially harmful contaminants.


Well Drillers Can Become Water Treatment Experts

All those clear water issues — hardness, iron, pH, sulfur — likely have nothing to do with your job as a well driller, but could you be helping homeowners fix things? Well and pump professionals have a tremendous opportunity to expand their offerings by gaining water treatment expertise.

Water well drillers do an excellent job drilling water wells today, giving homeowners a trouble-free water system for decades. But are they drilling themselves out of business? If the water smells, has high hardness, low pH, high iron or any type of dissolved contaminant, someone is treating it. Why shouldn’t that someone be a well driller like you?

Get sufficient training and education on the art and science of water. Then, find a trustworthy wholesaler and manufacturer to partner with and watch your business grow.

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