Dead Animals in Well, No Water Upstairs

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Old 01-20-20, 09:50 AM
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Dead Animals in Well, No Water Upstairs

Hello all,

First post and it's not super pleasant. It's been really cold this past weekend, I went to flush yesterday morning I believe and the tank didn't refill. The faucet and shower didn't produce any water either and the only other source of water is in the kitchen and produced not a drop. This is my first home and I had just begun to feel the water system wasn't going to kill me over time.

I had a small freak out and was certain the pipes had frozen. I live in a 200+ year old house and the plumbing is all over the place, I often can't make sense of what the initial intentions were. The water comes from a hand dug well behind the house, down a steep hill. I bought the house in the fall and put a decent cover it because it creeped me out.

It comes up through a black rubber or plastic house via a pump, which I believe sits on top of a bladder. From there it goes through a basic Culligan filter and then I put in a UV system to kill the incredible amount of bacteria the man living here for years must have been consuming. From the UV, it goes to the HW tank or to the maze of cold water lines.

Out of curiosity, I pulled the base off the filter top to see how the filter looked, having changed it two days prior. It was completely disgusting and smelled like dead things in water and I realized there was no water in my pipes and ice wasn't my problem.

I went down and heaved the cover off the well, it's very heavy and while I imagine a rodent or two may make a bad borrowing choice, I saw what at first I took to be some kind of algae, until it spun and I saw it's little legs. Clearly at least two dead full grown cats. The water level was maybe 6 feet deep and I had with me a long handled push broom to remove the snow from the cover. I pulled them out, lost my lunch and went into something resembling shock. I went back to the house, not wanting to see any more.

There is a release type valve in an unused room in the basement, and I found I could cycle the pump with a lever and blow water out of the valve, so I know the pump is pushing it at least to the HW tank and then stopping. At this point I was covered in foul water and freezing, and I simply packed up and went to my girlfriend's house. I briefly described the cats to her and she knew them which I found disturbing.

I'm sorry this is so long. My PSI is below 10 when it's usually about 35. Any advice besides calling a plumber?

Also, is two cats in a difficult to access well suspicious or is that like a normal thing... From the state of their bodies I would say they were only in for a few days at most. I felt I should mention it to the local police but they weren't interested.

Thank you.
 
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Old 01-20-20, 07:56 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

What is a hand dug well....... an open hole in the ground ?
Only 6' deep ?
Sounds like you need to investigate a better water source.
A potable well needs to be protected from animals climbing in.

I see you're in NY state which is a cold zone.
Any plumbing above ground will freeze which could be your problem.

 
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Old 01-20-20, 08:28 PM
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Aaannddd, this is why county health departments generally refuse to issue occupancy certificates for dwellings served by a surface well.

1) 90% chance that the garden hose conveying water from the shallow well to the house is frozen.
2) There was no foul play, the cats were looking for water, slipped and died of hypothermia
3) You will have to "flush the well" by letting it run SLOWLY for a day or two to remove the foul water.
4) Then you're going to have to "shock" the well with some form of bleach, let sit for half a day, then flush for another day.
5) Once the well is purged, you're going to have to bury the garden hose water supply line as deep in the ground as you can. You'll want to encase the garden hose in the thickest foam pipe insulation you can find. You MIGHT want to include a segment of "heat cable" against the pipe, INSIDE the insulation.
You'll ALSO want to mound up a layer of mulch/compost over the trench to insulate it until the spring.


6) You will need to seal the well enclosure; by hand shoveling a circular trench that matches an upside-down round livestock trough placed over the well


7) Start putting every $20 bill you don't spend in jar, you'll need it to hire plumber to fix this come spring.
 
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Old 01-21-20, 05:36 AM
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You definetely need to remove the carcasses from the well, flush and shock with chlorine like HalS mentioned. I will add that after adding the chlorine to the well run every fixture in the house until you smell chlorine. You may need to add more chlorine to the well. Then do NOT use any water for several hours. This will help disinfect the contaminated water hoses/lines in the house. After the waiting period you can open a sillcock or faucet and let the water run until you no longer smell chlorine.

---
You are not alone with your odd story. Many years ago a bunch of us stayed at a mountain cabin. One morning a couple of the ladies mentioned that the shower had slowed to a trickle and then almost completely stopped. I took off the shower head and inside were inch long pieces of baby snake. The shower head was packed full with them. The well was an old dug well with a stone well house with lots of gaps and openings. Sure enough there were eggs in the debris inside the well house. I assume the eggs hatched and the baby snakes fell down in the well and were diced by the pump.
 
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Old 01-21-20, 03:12 PM
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you definetely need to remove the carcasses from the well, flush and shock
Quick note-

depending on the weather, you MIGHT be to speed things up by

1) disconnecting the house from the well

2) drain ALL the water from the house piping by
-deflating any air bladders in the pressure tank (don't want it bursting)
- removing all of the faucet aerators/showerheads in the house and then opening all of the faucets / showers AND opening up the toilet fill valves
- bang on, or vibrate the pipes to loosen up any iron-bacteria gunk inside the pipes. (almost ALL water pipes develop a bacterial muddy-slime layer of innocuous bacteria. This sounds and looks gross, but is generally harmless. However, bad bacteria CAN move in, especially when something dies in the well.
This means you need to remove AS MUCH of the 'mud" in the pipes as you can - because that bacterial "mud" will NOT be sterilized by simple chlorination.

The bacterial mat, slime, mud is like a sponge. In the same way you can't really CLEAN a nasty smelling sink sponge, it's actually MUCH easier to REMOVE the gunk in the pipes that it is to sterilize it.

-opening the basement drains for the pump and hot water heater, and draining ALL of the water you can.

3) if the well is on a hill siphon out the upper layer of water.- get a garden hose, straighten it, then feed it into the well. The water should "burp" up when you get to the end, put a thumb over the hole and drag the hose down the hill. You SHOULD get a siphon effect when you uncover the end (this is MUCH better than trying to vacuum siphon nasty water by mouth.)



 
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Old 01-22-20, 09:16 PM
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Thanks all, for the replies. The more research I do, the more confused I get. The well Is fairly deep for a shallow well, it wasn't frozen when I pulled the poor buggers out. My pump will only pump when I manually turn it on by holding a lever on the small gray box attached to the pump. I've primed it several times but I'm worried there is a bunch of different sorts of **** in the pipes and air getting in somewhere, or the actual foot of the tube is just stuck in the bottom. Need some daylight to gather my strength to go back down and seriously inspect the well,

The single line does have heat wrap around it, going into the ground but I'm unsure how far. A few days with no water has left me anxious and unhappy. Not in a great place financially for what potentially needs to be done, I have a coworker coming over who has the same set up on Friday, and I'm friendly with a well guy and maybe he can provide some insight.

The well always creeped me out, and the fact that it was uncovered and unfiltered for the many years the previous owners lived here. It's like a cylindrical stone wall as far as I can tell. I will absolutely be putting a serious cover on it once it warms up a bit. I was surprised that I was able to buy the house with a water source of this type, but the price was 'right' and my mortgage is much cheaper than any apartments for miles. They were having a hard time selling and I wonder if certain things were overlooked. As single, lower middle class dude under 30 I was just happy to have a place to call my own. I expected problems, but this is sort of a big one and sort of a bad time for it. The basement is freezing and smells like death, I don't like being down there for long periods of time and I'm the type of learner who needs to see it done so I'm just feeling worse each attempt I make. I've shut the breakers for the pump and HW heater off and I'll just have to get my taxes done ASAP.

Tried melting snow last night and ended up with a bunch of leaves and rocks. I'll update if I get an answer, and I'll never use the water for coffee as long as I live.

Thanks again. I imagine I'll be asking all sorts of questions here.
 
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Old 01-23-20, 07:02 PM
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Honestly, I would never consider this water potable. It may be alright to take a shower, but I would never drink it or make food with it. There are so many different things that could be in there besides bacteria. If the water level is only 6' deep your are drinking surface runoff - you might as well pump water from a ditch. Filters can only catch so much, and UV light does nothing for bad chemicals.

I know you don't want to hear this, but in order to make this "right" or up to reasonable modern standards, you don't need a plumber, you need a well driller.

I am buying a house with an older "bored" well, which is like a modern version of a hand dug well. Large diameter hole that is lined with concrete pipe sections. With this type of well, it is very important that the top around the well is sealed off such that the first 10 feet cannot collect and seep in ground water. Even then, it is not ideal. With that said my well still has a very deep static water level, 6' deep is like pond water.
 

Last edited by zeezz; 01-23-20 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 01-24-20, 05:38 AM
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If you decide to shock the well as some have suggested, keep in mind that doing so does nothing to protect you from chemical contaminants. If you go the shock route, get a water test before using the water.

I agree by and large with zeezz. I don't believe there is anything you can do to get the water sufficiently free of contaminants for any human use. A 6' deep well is almost assured of having decaying matter and byproducts particularly if you're anywhere near a farm. So, even if you get the well somewhat cleaned up, you are just about guaranteed to have continuing problems from dead animals and fecal matter and you should be thinking about that every time you open a faucet.

Seriously consider getting a well at least 50' deep.

 
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Old 01-25-20, 02:03 PM
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I ended up going down the well today to check if the foot was cracked. The vertical pipe was maybe 12 to 15 feet deep, I disconnected it from the right angle and pulled the whole thing up. It was not as nasty as I had anticipated but it was certainly not functional. It was scar climbing down the rock wall and then using a framing hammer to knock the fitting loose without falling, I had a strong coworker on hand,I went and bought a new one, put it back in the well and then spent a ton of time priming the well house. But ****, water is back on.

Don't know if I mentioned I have a fairly expensive UV filter and I never drink it. it's what I've got to use, all the water in this area seems to be undrinkable and my neighbors use water coolers. I just fill a 64 oz bottle at work/family/gf to get me day to day. Someday I will drill, but not now. thanks for all the help and tips. I atleast gained a good understanding of my pump and well system and hopefully I won't have to go down that hell hole again.
 
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Old 01-25-20, 02:53 PM
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I don't mean to be rude but that UV filter means nothing. You should be far more concerned with the chemicals that are probably in the water. You simply cannot use a shallow well like that for human purposes - it's for COWS only. A lot of people don't drink tap water, but you also probably should not be bathing in that, washing dishes, or making food. Basically all it is good for is watering the yard. You would literally be better off collecting rain water from your roof and putting that through a filter.

I'm absolutely shocked a home inspector passed that. Did you get a mortgage on the property? You may have some legal recourse if you had it inspected by a licensed inspector and they did not flag this. Usually it is illegal to sell a house without drinkable water unless you buy it in cash.

At a bare minimum you should have a water test done - for chemicals not just bacteria. And this should be repeated very regularly. It will cost over $100.
 
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Old 01-25-20, 05:16 PM
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Um, yeah, a shallow well is fine for potable water. People relied on them for, oh, 5,000 years without many problems.

The issue is simple -
GROUNDWATER - (water that has been filtered through beneficial soil biome long enough that pathogens are over remove) is drinkable.
SURFACE WATER- (water that hits the ground and MAY contain human pathogens, er poop, may not be drinkable.)

A shallow well that recharges from GROUNDWATER is generally fine.
A shallow well the recharges from SURFACE WATER is generally suspect.

The way to check is a DYE TEST. You flush a fluorescent dye pellet down the toilet. Wait a day, and see if the dye shows up in the well. If it does, you have a problem, the well is drawing in raw sewage.
If it doesn't, then you're ok, because

Seal the well from surface water, sterilize the well, and you'll be fine.
 
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Old 01-25-20, 06:10 PM
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Shallow wells are not fine for potable water. People using them in the past is irrelevant - they also used lead pipes and asbestos ducts and thought if you had a cold you should smoke a cigarette...and human life expectancy was below 50 years old. The problem is most surface water has some sort of chemicals in it - fertilizer, automotive products, industrial waste, lead, arsenic, radon, and god knows what else. They didn't have all these chemicals 5000 years ago, and you can't filter these out with a home level system. Bacteria is not the issue here - you could drink septic tank water if you put it through a UV filter.

A well that has a static water level of only 6 feet, and is clearly not sealed in any way...is 100% mixing with all the dirty runoff. All of the SURFACE WATER is going right into this well. It's basically the same as a "dry well", which is a hole designed to collect surface water. 6 feet of dirt will not filter out any dangerous contaminants.

If it was properly capped, and sealed down to 10 feet plus - maybe it would be OK. MAYBE. It is not sealed to any depth. This would never ever ever pass a normal home inspection that comes with a normal mortgage unless your inspector didn't bother to inspect. If you haven't had the water tested for more than bacteria you are playing russian roulette, and it needs to be retested on a regular basis.

Also, given the condition of the well, I would really have to question the condition of the septic system unless you are on a sewer system. How far is it from the well, and was it done improperly also?

Without knowing anything about the OP's house, where it's at, what the water quality is like, possible pollutants, etc, it is extremely ignorant to proclaim this well to be safe. It is different in every region - unless you are his neighbor you have no idea. And you should not recommend things that can be very dangerous.

To the OP - you should at least call some people familiar with wells and have a talk with them. Maybe get a real inspection from a professional. You can't get a real answer on this from the internet. It's free to make the phone call, they may give you very good advice. Nobody posting in this thread is a well driller, a plumber, or an expert on wells in your area.

Installing a reverse osmosis water filter would give you drinkable water from almost anything, but it would be a very low flow supply only good enough for drinking.

I'm not trying to beat up the OP, but don't think for a minute that UV filter is cleaning your water.
 

Last edited by zeezz; 01-25-20 at 07:07 PM.
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Old 01-25-20, 08:17 PM
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The problem is most surface water has some sort of chemicals in it - fertilizer, automotive products, industrial waste, lead, arsenic, radon, and god knows what else.
Eh, no.
Most sheet-flow surface water in suburban and rural areas does NOT have fertilizers, industrial waste, lead, arsenic or automotive products (e.g. motor oil, gasoline, or antifreeze).
Radon is a volatile gas that is not stable in surface water. Lead and arsenic are not found in surface water, except in rare instances of large placer deposits of galena ore associated with veins of copper and sliver ore.
Fertilizers based on from biosolids can be problematic, but classic ammonium-nitrate based fertilizers are highly water soluble and are generally washed from fields into lakes in a time frame of week ,causing algal blooms, not surface water contamination.
Industrial waste and automotive fluids are rare, unless you are dealing with a former junkyard.

Of course, all of those bad things DO happen in some areas, the blanket statement that most surface water is contaminated is inaccurate.

A simple hand dug well tapping a shallow ground water aquifer, as long as it has a "casing" to exclude surface water (and Ophelia-tic cats) from entering is going to be fine.
 
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Old 01-25-20, 08:52 PM
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Of course, all of those bad things DO happen in some areas, the blanket statement that most surface water is contaminated is inaccurate.
And, since you have no idea anything about where this guy lives, you have no idea what may or may not be present. Surface water is rarely/never nothing but hydrogen and oxygen, it's always contaminated with something. Not everything is harmful to humans, but it is ALWAYS contaminated with something. A blanket statement that a shallow well is fine to drink from is very, very inaccurate.

A simple hand dug well tapping a shallow ground water aquifer, as long as it has a "casing" to exclude surface water (and Ophelia-tic cats) from entering is going to be fine.
It's very obvious here that there is no casing (or it's too old to matter) and no cap. (how did the cats get in?!) You also have no idea if this is tapping into a shallow aquifer or the neighbors septic drain field. Simply digging a shallow trench and putting a water tank on top is NOT a way to seal this or any well. You make way too many assumptions that could be very dangerous. Nobody here has enough information to determine whether this well is safe or not.

Back to the OP - THIS is why you need to ask a local professional. I am not a well professional. Hal_S is not a well professional. None of us have seen your property or even know what city. This is the internet, it's kinda like asking google if you have cancer. Only a real doctor can tell you. And it is entirely possible there are things that cause cancer in that well. It is also possible that it could be perfectly safe to drink right out of the ground, nobody here can tell you. It is very irresponsible to claim this water is safe without first knowing anything about it.

Even when you have a modern deep well with a good casing it is recommended to have the water tested at least every year, if not more frequently. Often local authorities will provide water testing relatively cheap - like $25-50 depending on the test.
 

Last edited by zeezz; 01-25-20 at 09:40 PM.
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Old 01-26-20, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by zeezz
And, since you have no idea anything about where this guy lives... It is very irresponsible to claim this water is safe without first knowing anything about it.
I have to agree. I think we're talking past each other.

Originally Posted by zeezz
None of us have seen your property or even know what city.
I disagree.

To the OP, here's something helpful - the 1950s groundwater study for the county listed in your profile.https://archive.org/details/usgswate...e/n30/mode/1up
And the more recent GIS version. https://ny.water.usgs.gov/maps/aquifer/

And the HomeFacts browser for splills and storage tanks https://www.homefacts.com/environmen...ie-County.html
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 01-26-20 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 01-26-20, 02:12 PM
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I disagree.
Really? You've been to his house and seen this well? PLEASE tell us more about it! I am very curious about the details of this well. Even if you lived in the same city, it wouldn't matter...unless you have extensive experience all over the area in wells. Every well (and the water below the surface) is different, even from neighbor to neighbor.

Also, a 1950s ground water study is not relevant in 2020. The only report that can tell you about YOUR water is one from a sample tested out of YOUR well. It does not really matter what is or is not going on industrially around you. How do you know the neighbor doesn't soak their yard in illegal pesticides? How do you know the other neighbor doesn't dump used brake fluid in the back yard for weed control? How do you know the quick lube shop down the road isn't dumping antifreeze out back? People do a lot of stupid things.

And no, we're not "talking past each other", you're trying to say this well is OK for potable water, and it isn't. You're trying to tell him to cap it with a stock tank, and that is not OK. Your advice is dangerous, and that is not OK.
 
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