More than 42 million households in the US rely on private wells to supply water to their homes. The vast majority of these households also depend on septic systems to treat household wastewater. Many homeowners wonder about well water safety and whether their septic system may be contaminating their drinking water. This article will address these concerns, including a brief explanation of how wells work as well as some ways your septic system can impact your home’s well.
How Wells Work
Simply put, a private water well is a hole drilled into the ground that provides access to water contained in an aquifer far beneath the surface. As huge storehouses of drinkable water, aquifers are saturated zones beneath the water table. Using pumps to bring the water to the surface and inside the home, wells can supply all the water a household needs. Proper well construction is largely determined by the site location, which impacts the proper size, depth, and construction techniques used to install the well. Proper well construction is one key component of ensuring well water safety throughout the life of your well.
In Ohio, private water systems, including wells, are regulated by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and administered by the ODH and local health districts.
How Septic Systems Can Impact Well Water
A septic system’s drainfield relies on filtration and aerobic bacterial digestion to treat and purify the effluent it receives from the septic tank. As the secondary treatment system, the drainfield is integral in ensuring all pathogenic contaminants are removed from your home’s wastewater. A properly installed and maintained septic system should have no impact on your home’s well water. However, if the system malfunctions or is not properly installed, groundwater running underneath the drainfield will capture any contaminants remaining in the effluent as it passes through the drainfeld. If positioned too closely to nearby streams or private wells, these water sources may become contaminated.
Similarly, regulations on private wells stipulate proper installation and construction techniques, based on the location of the well. Proper installationand maintenance of a private well should ensure it is not impacted by your home’s septic system.
Ensuring Safe Well Water Supply
The most important aspect of ensuring safe well water supply is in verifying your home’s septic system and well have been installed according to current regulations. A trusted septic provider can complete an inspection to ensure your system was installed correctly and is functioning properly. A private water systems contractor registered with the state of Ohio can do the same for your well.
A well should be installed so that rainwater flows away from it. Rainwater can pick up harmful contaminants (bacteria and chemicals) as it flows over the surface. If allowed to pool above your well, this contaminated rainwater may seep into the well. Wells should also be installed upgradient and no less than 100 feet from the home’s septic system. Septic systems are also required to have a minimum vertical separation distance (VSD) of no less than 36 inches above groundwater or aquifers. These measures ensure your well water safety.
Another important component of ensuring your safe well water supply is in having your well and septic system regularly inspected and serviced. In addition to properly maintaining your home’s well, you should also periodically have the well water tested for potability and contamination. The state of Ohio requires all septic owners to maintain an operation and maintenance plan with a registered septic provider to help ensure the system is functioning properly.
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