Two days before we closed on our house, there was a “catastrophic anomaly,” better known as a REALLY big rain. Two hours and 8” of rain later, the well was severely compromised and the dam around the pond was undercut. We backed the closing off by a couple of weeks so the situation could be evaluated. A lot of escrow money later, we closed on the house.
A company hired by the seller’s realtor came out and chlorinated the well. They put in chlorine, hooked up a hose, and ran off the water. I would later learn that they had no clue what they were doing. The county well test confirmed our fears. The well tested positive for total coliform bacteria and e coli. A certified well chlorinating company came out.
The Proper Way to Chlorinate a Well
The way to properly chlorinate a well is to have the chlorine put in, the sides of the casing washed down, and the water recirculated inside the well. This gets the chlorine all through the well, down to the deepest parts.
Then the water is run in each tap of the house one at a time, hot and cold individually, until you can smell the chlorine coming out. This means sinks, tubs and showers, dishwasher, clothes washer, etc. Then STOP. Run as little water as possible for the next 24 hours. What this does is allow the chlorinated water to sit in the pipes and clean them of any bacteria.
After about 24 hours, run the water off through a hose to an area away from the septic lines of your house for several hours until you smell no more chlorine. Then go back to using your water as you normally would. Running off the water lessens the amount of chlorine that gets into your septic system. Since your septic needs bacteria to work properly, you don’t want to kill it all with a serious infusion of chlorine. You can use a septic booster such as Rid-X to help your septic system recover.
Great in Theory
We followed our instructions to the letter. The water came out a frightful shade of bright blue this time. It subsided after we ran the water off. Two weeks later, a sample was sent off. The water was still testing present for bacteria. We repeated the whole process. The water came out a goopy brown for a few days. Another two weeks later, we got the same test result.
After much head scratching by the powers that be, it was decided that since the well head was below grade, [below the level of the surrounding dirt] it must be getting continually re-contaminated by subsequent rains. It was decided that the thing to do was to raise the well head to be about a foot above ground. That and another chlorination would surely take care of the problem. We followed all our chlorination instructions faithfully. Two weeks later, the sample came back positive yet again.
Getting Intimate With Your Well
The next item in the elusive solution to decontaminating the well was to take a camera down the well. It’s kind of like a colonoscopy for wells. It involves dropping a camera slowly down the well casing and exploring its innermost parts. I don’t know if the well felt violated or not, but I sure felt like I should send it flowers after it was all over. Much discussion ensued, and the well was declared un-salvagable.
A New Beginning
Much bargaining later, the seller agreed to pay to have a new well dug. That would surely fix the problem and we could all go on with our lives. One day a fleet of huge trucks showed up. They drilled, and they drilled, and they drilled. After a couple of days of overbearing noise and vibration that made all our birds into nervous wrecks, they finally hit water at a rate of 20 gallons per minute at 395 feet of depth. Since I doubt it would be possible given our current plumbing to ever use that much water, we felt like things were good. Casing was set into rock at 63’ of depth, an improvement of 43’ over the old well, and the total depth of 420’, an improvement of 300’ over the previous well. Surely there would be no bacteria at that kind of depth, right? The pump was placed, and everything chlorinated yet again. Two weeks later, the test came back present for coliform bacteria yet again.
The well company came back again and poured more chlorine into the well. We followed our chlorination instructions precisely, but the water tests continued to come back present for coliform. So the staff at environmental health decided they would chlorinate it themselves. The contamination persisted. They tried again, this time putting in twice the amount they had ever used in any well. And you know what happened? The well came back still contaminated.
A Return to Intimacy
It was decided they would take a camera down the new well. It was another one of those intimate moments. Remember how we had casing running down to 63’? The camera showed fissures in the rock at 66 and 68’, just below the end of the casing. Through the fissures was a little trickle of water. There ensued another round of expert recommendations and monetary negotiations. It was finally decided that a well liner would be put in, and if that didn’t work, we would have a UV system installed.
Why Not Just Do the UV System?
We could have just done a UV system much sooner in the saga, I suppose, but the goal was to get a clean well sample. Since someday we would have to sell this place, it would be better if the well had the ability to be clean. So we went with a well liner. A well liner was installed to a depth of 120’, and carefully grouted in. Then the well was chlorinated again.
Success at Last
Two weeks later, we got the results – the well was finally free of bacteria. It took more than 8 months, but we can finally drink the water. Although we have spent a small fortune in bottled water and Rid-X, it was worth it to have clean well water.