Maintenance, along with proper location and construction, is essential to ensuring your drinking water is safe. Guidelines for maintaining your well can be found on the Water Systems Council fact sheet, Wellcare® information for you about Well Maintenance.
Contamination of well water supplies generally occurs when polluted surface water or septic system discharges seep into the groundwater. However, human activity also can play a role in unnecessary pollution. Practices such as yearly checkups, regular testing and keeping household contaminants and farming chemicals a safe distance from water supplies greatly reduce your risk from drinking potentially unsafe or unhealthy water.
Wellowner.org provides a wealth of information for consumers about their water wells including well maintenance, water quality, homeowner's checklist, well logs and more. Also, the McHenry County Health Department offers an online brochure. The Water Works web page provides important information on how to avoid water-related hazards plus much more for seniors and those with compromised immune systems.
The following tips can be used as a guideline to help ensure your private well is properly maintained:
- Keep contaminants away – Avoid mixing, using or storing hazardous chemicals, such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides, motor oil, gas, weed killer and other pollutants near the well. Home*A*Syst offers a book that is available online titled, Home*A*Syst: An Environmental Risk- Assessment Guide for the Home, which provides in-depth information on environmental health risks in and around your home. Also included in this book in the drinking water chapter are action steps on how to keep your well water safe. Another online publication offered on the University of Illinois Extension's web page is, 57 Ways to Protect Your Home Environment (and Yourself), which includes six chapters on how to protect your drinking water, including information on knowing when and how to test your water and the signs of contamination.
- Don't allow back-siphonage – Use back flow prevention devices (available at local hardware stores) on all outside faucets with hose connections to help keep pollutants from back siphoning into the hose.
- Visually inspect exposed parts of the well – Make sure there are no cracks or damage to the well casing or well cap, and the well cap fits tightly. Also, ensure the area around the wellhead slopes away from the well, and is free of leaves, grass and other debris. The Illinois Association of Groundwater Professionals (IAGP) offers a Water Well Owner's Guide online, which includes checklists, tips, and information on well records. Homeowners can also call toll- free at 800-990-2209 for assistance.
- Seal abandoned wells – Abandoned and improperly constructed wells can be sources of potentially polluted groundwater, which could make your drinking water unsafe. The University of Illinois Extension offers an online publication, Sealing Abandoned Wells that describes the risks and guidelines on sealing wells.
- Conserve and protect your water – Water conservation is becoming an ever-growing necessity throughout the world today, as the availability of drinking water constantly diminishes through things such as drought, contamination and an increase in population. Conserving and protecting this limited resource is essential in ensuring an adequate supply of water for all your needs as well as for future generations. For tips on how to conserve water at home, visit Illinois EPA's Citizens' Information Center and the American Water Works Association's, Waterwiser web page. Also, check out U.S. EPA's " WaterSense: Efficiency Made Easy" web page.
- Test, test, test! – Remember, private water well owners themselves have the primary responsibility to test well water for potential contaminants.