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Airdate: Mar 12, 2014
Scientist: Erin Ling

Water - Well Maintenance

Water - Well Maintenance
For those of who get our water from wells, some tips for keeping drinking water safe.

Water Well Maintenance

Ambience: Sounds of well drilling
Ling: About 40 percent of Americans get at least part of their water supply from groundwater.

For those of who get our water from wells, some tips ahead for keeping drinking water safe. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We're at a well drilling site with Erin Ling, a Senior Extension Associate in Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech.

Ling: In a lot of cases, with water supplies, in general municipal or private water supplies they're out of sight, out of mind. People think of their water as coming from a tap. Our programs aim to educate people about where water comes from and how it gets into their system, how it's treated along the way, if it is, and really encourage that responsible stewardship of water supplies.

We recommend annual testing for total coliform bacterial, which is a good way of knowing if any surface water is entering the well, that the integrity of the well is good, it's constructed the way it should, and it's functioning the way it should. Also, keeping potential sources of contamination away from the wellhead. So, making sure that you're not using fertilizer, herbicides, having dog waste or something like that near the wellhead. So protecting the well by keeping those activities away as well.

And if your water should test positive for coliform bacteria?

Ling: If people have E. coli or find E. coli in their well water, first of all, they should actually stop drinking the water, boil the water in the meantime, or use another source of water that is safe until they figure out what's going on. We recommend that they try to figure out the source of potential contamination. It could be a septic system that needs to be maintained or, you know, dog waste or something like that nearby. You can shock chlorinate a system, which is, basically, circulating chlorinated water through and letting it sit long enough to kill the bacteria. If that's the only step you take and you don't address the source, it will return. So, there needs to be double prong approach to dealing with the problem.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.