New well tests positive for total coliform, what do do


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Old 04-13-15, 03:41 PM
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New well tests positive for total coliform, what do do

I had a new well drilled in January 2015. The well is drilled to 140', the 4" casing is to 114', and there is water 32' down. The well head is sealed with a small threaded plug in the seal. After drilling, I had the water tested by a state lab and it came back total coliform present. The well drillers said this was normal for new wells, and I should run the water for a couple weeks and test again.

When I tested again, the total coliform was present again. I called the well drillers again and asked them to disinfect my well. They sent a service man out. He took out the threaded plug in the well seal and poured some liquid down the well from an unlabeled yellow jug. He told me it was pool chlorine, and I could not tell how much he put in. He put the threaded plug back in, told me to let it sit for 12 hours and I was all set. He also gave me another bill, but that is not the point of this story

His procedure didn't seem effective to me, so I took the threaded plug back out and stuck a small funnel in it. I connected my garden hose to the nearest hose bib and ran water through the funnel back down into the well. I circulated the chlorinated water for one hour. I then removed the funnel and installed the plug, I went inside and ran each indoor tap until I could smell chlorine. I let everything sit for eighteen hours.

The next morning I connected the garden hose outside and let the water run into an empty area away from the well and septic. At first the water came out red and brown, then it was clear but still smelled like chlorine. I ran it until the smell was gone, about two hours. We continued to live off bottled water for thirty days; we used the well water only for bathroom use, showering, brushing teeth, etc. After the thirty days I tested again, and the water still had total coliform present.

At this point I don't know what to do, I am very frustrated having spent so much time and money on this well and still have to live out of bottled water. The well drillers seem to think this is normal and think I should simply chlorinate the water system. I am concerned that if the water treatment fails I could be drinking contaminated water, and it sounds like an excuse from them to not fix the real problem. Where is the bacteria coming from? I realize this is not really their issue; they couldn't know what they are driving into, but I wish they could be more helpful.

My original well, and my neighbor's wells, are drilled to around 75'. When the drillers put in my new well, they pushed past the aquifer at 75' and drilled to 140'. I think I am the only one in the neighborhood at this depth. My old well at the 75' depth was tested in November 2014 and was negative for total coliform.

What should I do?
 
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Old 04-13-15, 04:24 PM
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Most potable water is treated with chlorine, I don't think its that strange.

If the bacteria is present in the water supply (which it sounds like it is) then after 30 days it will definitely be back, the chlorine will have long been gone. The best way to ensure that you're drinking sanitary water would be to use a peristaltic dosing pump connected to the plumbing to your tank. You'll need to test the water quite often at first to determine a working dosage and then periodically to make sure everything is under control. The pump usually is connected to a jug of bleach which you'll need to replace once a month or so.

You will almost certainly be able to smell and taste the chlorine in your water supply. Its not the greatest taste but it's not harmful to drink. If you don't want to taste the chlorine, an activated charcoal filtration system will remove it.
 
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Old 04-13-15, 04:38 PM
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What was wrong with the water at 75 feet. Could you twist their arm to drill another well to that depth at a reasonable cost?

Bud
 
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Old 04-13-15, 04:47 PM
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If the water at 140ft has coliform bacteria I wouldn't trust my health to the water at 75 remaining clean.
 
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Old 04-14-15, 06:07 AM
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Thank you for taking the time to read my post and reply. The well at 75' was replaced because the water it was pumping was full of sand. Two well companies both told me there was likely a crack in the casing, and it is impossible to repair. They both said my only recourse was a new well. The old well is 32 years old, and they said 30 years is a good usable life for a well.

I don't really know why he went past the 75' aquifer. When they hit water the driller told me they are going to push past to the second layer to make sure I have good water and won't have any problems. I didn't question him, I thought deeper must be cleaner/better, right?

I really don't want them back out to drill a third well. I'm not paying for that, and getting my awful, wretched county to pass the inspection for this well was a disaster. I don't want to go through that again.

Is it possible to eliminate the bacteria from the water source? Could it take two or three chlorination attempts before all bacteria is removed? Or is this a "if it didn't work the first time, it's not going to work at all" type of situation?

Could UV treatment be used instead of chlorination treatment to remove the bacteria effectively?
 
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Old 04-14-15, 07:26 AM
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I'm not a hydrologist, just a Real Estate Broker; but I've encountered properties where the bacteria count in the incoming water just couldn't be reduced . . . . like where manure was being spread on pasture land and hay fields within 2 or 3 miles of the Subject.

At least your water tests are not showing the presence of e.coli (Escherichia coli) which would make it a serious health issue for human beings; but why the other bacteria is present at your greater well depth and not at the neighbors' 75' depth level is a real mystery. It must originate at quite a distance.

Besides for the whole house chlorination, can you consider a Ultra-Violet sanitizer? If your water is free of manganese or molybdenum (I forget which), you can use it to more inexpensively rid yourself of the bacteria that remains One of those chemicals adheres to the UV Light Bulb and renders it cloudy and in-effective over a short period of time, requiring replacement.
 
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Old 04-14-15, 10:09 AM
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Is it possible to eliminate the bacteria from the water source? Could it take two or three chlorination attempts before all bacteria is removed? Or is this a "if it didn't work the first time, it's not going to work at all" type of situation?
Really depends on where it's coming from. It's possible that the first colorization wasn't sufficient and the bacteria repopulated from there but I'd definitely lean towards if it didn't work its not going to.

That said, bleach is cheap, it won't cost you too much to try.
 
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Old 04-16-15, 11:27 AM
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jeli Ė

I have a 75í well and have had a coliform problem and so Iíve looked into this problem a little bit. My understanding is that the problem arises because of an improperly constructed well or material failure. For example, if water is allowed to pool at the well head, or the well seal is bad, or the grout material outside the casing at the top is not forming a proper seal, cracked casing, etc.

I think the problem is that there is a path that should NOT be there for surface water to get down into the well. Here is a quote from the link below and I have seen this point made many times:

Coliform bacteria do not occur naturally in most aquifers. Fractured or creviced bedrock aquifers that are close to the surface are the exceptionÖ.

Green Risks: There is Coliform in my Well- What to Do?

But I also came across something recently (if I find it again Iíll post it) which does in fact seem to imply that a new well may in fact have coliform and thus you will need to treat the water on a continuous basis. But the vast majority of the stuff Iíve read makes it clear that they attribute the coliform to faulty/failed well construction with no mention of the fact that the water supply itself might just have coliform and thatís that. So itís a little confusing Ė to me anyway lol.

I do happen to know whatís wrong with my well Ė the wellhead is 4 feet down in a well pit which unfortunately fills with water when it rains, so obviously I have ground water pooling at the wellhead (obviously a no-no) and would explain the source of my coliform. But the well-pit is grandfathered in and the house came with a UV filter which I use to treat the water Ė and it works.

I believe it is also the case that many times new wells become contaminated with coliform during construction and must be shock treated. I know you say you donít know how much chlorine that guy used Ė maybe he didnít put enough in? It sounds like you already must have read some things about shock chlorination because you ran the water back down the well an also let it sit in the pipes and later run the taps, etc. Ė but I believe in fact it is sometimes required that you do it more than once.

If it were me I would do it one more time, this time making sure the correct amount of chlorine is used. Here is one link to determine the correct amount/procedure and there are many others out there:

http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/e...sinfection.pdf

Maybe one of the drillers will weigh in here and address the probability that you might need continuous disinfection treatment for a new well even if the well is properly constructed. Sounds like the well driller might be giving you a story but as I mentioned above seems like there is at least some probability that the story is true.

UV filters work but the water has to be pretty clear. I moved all my stuff around and added an Acid Neutralizer (AN) Filter because my well water is very acidic and eats the copper pipes. So I have an AN Filter followed by a Sediment Filter before my UV filter. The AN Filter as a side effect cleans sediment out of the water, so my water is very clear when it gets to the UV Filter and the UV Filter does its job just fine. On mine (and I think most) you need to replace the bulb each year as recommended since the bulbs lose their effectiveness over time. Other than that there is no maintenance.

So you probably could use a UV Filter (not that much skill to install it yourself) or inject chlorine from a small tank into the water line via a small pump, like the Stenner. There are pros and cons for both of these methods.

Good luck with this!
 
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Old 04-16-15, 12:08 PM
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"so I took the threaded plug back out and stuck a small funnel in it. I connected my garden hose to the nearest hose bib and ran water through the funnel back down into the well. I circulated the chlorinated water for one hour. I then removed the funnel and installed the plug, I went inside and ran each indoor tap until I could smell chlorine. I let everything sit for eighteen hours."

Didn't he tell you to let it sit for 12 hours? Why didn't you do that? Why did you think that diluting the chlorine would help it?

Until you try it the correct way, you don't know much of anything. The yellow jugs are very commonly known among people that have pools. They are refillable containers.

You should go to a pool store and buy some pool strength chlorine. Pour in the same amount you saw him use. And then leave it alone. 12 hours is kind of short, most people I know that shock a well wait longer, like 24 hours.

You could be over-complicating this and a simple shock (done the correct way) could fix you right up.
 
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Old 04-16-15, 01:15 PM
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"of the stuff I’ve read makes it clear that they attribute the coliform to faulty/failed well construction"

I don't know if I agree with that. I've seen drillers take the precaution of washing everything with chlorinated water and the well still ended up with contamination.
 
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Old 04-16-15, 02:41 PM
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Vey I know I didnít make that clear. What I meant was that wells in which contamination keeps returning, even after shock treatment, ďthey sayĒ is because there is something wrong with the well itself, not the water source down in the well. The ground water is getting down there contaminating the well. Thatís what I keep seeing from a multitude of expert sources.

They never mention that a new well might be properly constructed, and then properly shocked after the driller is done, and yet coilform keeps coming up in tests because the water in the well is being contaminated from some other source, not from an improperly constructed well.

I only found one (or two?) sources that sort of imply a new well might just have a permanent coilform problem, no fault of the construction, and thatís why I say Iím a little confused because the vast majority of the experts seem to say if the problem keeps returning after proper disinfection itís because of faulty/failed well construction.

So are we saying in jeliís case the driller went down 140 feet and too bad the water is contaminated down there and thus continuous disinfection is needed? Sounds like thatís what the driller is saying. Maybe thatís true. I wonder if any neighbors could shed some light on this.
 
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Old 04-16-15, 02:57 PM
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I suppose it varies greatly with the terrain. In my area, contaminants can enter the aquifer miles away and travel, deep below grade, to a place near you.

In areas where the local topography is relatively flat, it probably has to be more localized . . . . and maybe identifiable ?
 
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Old 04-16-15, 03:24 PM
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"Sounds like that’s what the driller is saying. "

Not to me it's not. Not yet. Our OP didn't let the shock work before he started pouring water down there, or that is what I read from this statement, "His procedure didn't seem effective to me, so I took the threaded plug back out and stuck a small funnel in it. I connected my garden hose to the nearest hose bib and ran water through the funnel back down into the well."

Then AFTER he diluted the chlorine, he let it sit for 18 hours.

So before everyone gets upset and begins pointing fingers at the driller, he needs to get a real shock done properly.
 
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Old 04-16-15, 06:03 PM
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Unless Iím missing something it sure sounds like the driller is saying you have to live with this and set up a chlorine treatment system:

The well drillers seem to think this is normal and think I should simply chlorinate the water system.
Since the well drillers said the above only after: (1) they had finished the well and left, (2) and then came back and shock chlorinated the well weeks later when jeli complained , (3) and then afterwards the results still showed coliform, I can only interpret their above statement to mean that they are talking about a permanent chlorination system.

Then AFTER he diluted the chlorine, he let it sit for 18 hours.
I donít think that is correct. You are not diluting anything. You are circulating the chlorinated water down the casing which is what many or most procedures say you should do. For example step 6 in the Minnesota Dept. of Health procedure referred to in post #8 says to do just that. I think jeli followed the proper procedure but the guy who dumped the chlorine down the well did a quick and dirty.
 
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Old 04-17-15, 05:32 AM
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"Minnesota Dept. of Health procedure"
http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/e...sinfection.pdf

#6 says to recirculate for ten minutes. This is to wash the interior of the well, which doesn't take much water. He says he recirculated for an hour.

When you pull from a well that long you are no longer recirculating, you are pulling in fresh water.
 
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Old 04-17-15, 09:08 AM
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Here is one from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that says 2 hours in step 6.

http://www.in.gov/idem/files/welldisinfection.pdf

Here is one that in step 8 says 30 minutes.

Water Well Disinfection Procedure | American Ground Water Trust

Here is one on page 26 step 10 states ďat least 30 minutesĒ

http://www.michigan.gov/documents/de...l_221334_7.pdf

This one in step (3) puts no time limit on the circulation

http://www.placer.ca.gov/~/media/hhs...-procedure.pdf

Here is one that in 2. Procedure 2. D says 1 hour

Procedures for Disinfection of a Water Well - Department of Public Works - Public Utilities Division - Garrett County Government

I have a bunch of these and my interpretation was that with such a variation in the circulation time that dilution must not be a problem. These seem to be reputable sources but maybe the well drillers who do this all the time would say some of those procedures are not correct.
 
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Old 04-17-15, 01:33 PM
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Okay. I give up. But I would try shocking again since it is cheap and all the other alternatives are expensive. What would it hurt?
 
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Old 04-26-15, 12:29 PM
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Thanks for all the comments, I really appreciate it. I just returned from a trip and plan to tackle this tomorrow. I am going to chlorinate it again following the Minnesota guide.

The well driller thinks I am overreacting and thinks his job is done. He wants me to chlorinate continuously. I'm not ready to give up yet.
 
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Old 04-26-15, 06:10 PM
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Don't forget to follow the directions in the Minnesota guide as to the proper way to collect a sample. For many people, there are only a few places they can collect a good sample and that is outside at a bibcock or a bathroom faucet after removing the aerator.

Kitchen sinks have moving parts which isn't good for a sample.
 
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Old 04-27-15, 05:55 AM
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#6 says to recirculate for ten minutes. This is to wash the interior of the well, which doesn't take much water. He says he recirculated for an hour.
The Minnesota guide says to flush for 10 minutes away from the well until the water runs clear, then recirculate it into the well itself for two hours. This guide also says in cases where a previous disinfection has failed, you can quadruple the amount of bleach and dilute it into four gallons of water. The driller did not dilute his bleach at all; he simply poured it directly into the well. I wonder if this had an impact on his effectiveness? I will be following the Minnesota guide exactly this morning and hope it works out.
 
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Old 04-27-15, 07:20 AM
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.

Originally Posted by Vey
". . . there are only a few places they can collect a good sample . . ."

Amen to that. As a Real Estate Broker, I've been witness to dozens of failed water tests because the faucet was not, or could not be, sanitized.

People would repeat the tests of the well's water and think it was the culprit when in actuality, it was the water distribution system.

Kitchen faucet swivels cannot be sanitized; faucet strainers are often left in, and shower faucets often draw water from that bacteria prone 3' area between the tub spout and the shower head, which is constantly being dampened and then allowed to air dry slowly.

If the distribution system isn't sanitized, the well will fail forever.

After inundating your well with bleach, let the water run into the house through each water appliance until you can smell bleach and then shut it off and let the water line sit over night.

Dowsing an empty bathroom faucet with bleach and and then letting it sit for a while before drawing your sample may also help.

And remember, most laboratories check for the presence of chlorine in the sample, so the water system must be completely flushed before a true sample can be drawn for submission.

PS: I can't help but be reminded of another Broker who was so concerned about a sample passing the 1st time, she dowsed the bathroom sink cold water faucet with alcohol after removing the strainer; but she forgot to remove the rubber gasket. Then she lit the faucet with a cigarette lighter just to burn off, or evaporate, the remaining alcohol . . . . but the thing started on fire and she melted the cheap plastic faucet (which wasn't cheap to replace). That was over 20 years ago, but I still enjoy reminding her of that excess enthusiasm for disinfecting !
 
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Old 04-27-15, 07:40 AM
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If I were you, I would follow those directions exactly. If it says to stand on your left foot while you pour in the bleach and hop three times, then you should do it.

I don't know if it says this in the instructions, but there are different strengths of bleach. The Dollar Tree bleach has a lower level of chlorine than Clorox, which in turn has less chlorine (% wise) than pool bleach from a pool store. So read the labels before you buy.

I'm not a pro, but I've shocked a well or two. Around here, we used to take our samples to the County Health Department (cost=$8) and one time my well the flunked the annual test, so before I shocked I asked the county well man why I might have flunked. First thing he asked me was where I had drawn the sample and when I said the kitchen sink he said that was why it flunked. Germs can get in the joints of the swinging part of the faucet. Took a sample from a different faucet and it passed.

This was long before the internet, so when I had to shock, I just did as I was told to do. It was very simple. The high spots were to angle the funnel so that the bleach hit all the sides as it went down and make sure that I washed the pitless adapter inside and out with some diluted bleach, wait overnight, and then make sure I pulled some water from every single faucet in the house, inside and out until I could smell it at every faucet, and then let the water lay in the pipes overnight before pulling the bleach all the way out.

That's the extent of my knowledge.
 
 

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