Well water disinfection question

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by cowboy joe, Oct 27, 2005.

  1. cowboy joe

    cowboy joe Hired Hand

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    The previous owner had an ultraviolet disinfection system installed on the well pump before I bought the place. On the upside, the system quietly sits in the background (except when the fuse blows after a power outage), requires no chemicals and little routine maintenance.

    On the down side, the bulb does needs to be replaced annually, or so they recommend, at a DIY cost of around $100. I figured this was a trade off compared to the cost of a chlorinator and the need for chemicals.

    What I didn't know was the unit consumes more kW-hrs than my freezer! This is not an estimate...I measured the power comsumption of both devices with a power meter (total power used versus time). The cost is not the problem (~$40/yr), the high electrical usage is as I am planning to go off grid in the near future.

    Chlorine is an option but I'm not a big fan of chemicals. Are there other types out there? I'm also considering an alternate arrangement for the UV system like a timer to turn the system off at night or when no one is home or a flow switch to activate the unit on demand rather than having it on all the time which is wasteful...kind of like leaving the lights on when no one is in the room.

    So now that I've bored you with the details, here are some questions.

    Do you use a disinfection system on your well?
    What type do you have?
    What are the pros & cons of the system?
     
  2. NWSneaky

    NWSneaky Well-Known Member

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    Our local gov agencies will test them free --- all we've ever needed is a rare shock treatment of a gallon of bleach poured in; about once every two/three years --- let it stand a day without using, run your water a few minutes and your on your way for under $1.
     

  3. FoxfireWoman

    FoxfireWoman Questing for Simplicity

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    We had our water tested by the state conservation dept. They said it was fine to drink, so never thought about adding any type of chemicals to it. Much prefer chemical free - which is why we didn't tie into rural water when it was offered.

    FW
     
  4. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    Just wondering what yuck is supposed to be in your well that you need an ultraviolet disinfection thingy?
     
  5. raymilosh

    raymilosh Well-Known Member

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    ultraviolet lights kill living organisms, as far as i know. that means either:
    1. the groundwater flowing into your well carries fecal coliform bacteria with it
    2. the groundwater flowing to your well carries non-fecal coliform bacteria with it
    3. someone sold the previous owner something that isn't really necessary
    4. the owner chose to install it, just to be safe

    To find out which is true, have the health dept test your water. Call around until you find out what the agency's name and number is. Most states have a service like this. The cost will be eather cheap, like $10 or free.

    If there is fecal coliform in your well, that means there is a very nearby source of mammal waste and that this mammal waste is getting into your well very near the surface. A talk with a good well driller and some well work to exclude this shallow source form geting in to the well anymore may be possible and may fix the problem permanently.

    If there is total coliform, that is naturally occurring and can come in from deep sources and isn't usually present in high concentrations. Most people can handle drinking water like this without ill effects and don't bother treating the water. Water professionals are required to tell you to have it treated anyway. If this is the case, ask the water professional what his/ her professional opinion is and then ask what his/ her personal opinion is, like "if this was YOUR well at YOUR house what would YOU do?"

    If your samples come back with no bacteria, then I think the UV system is not actually doing anything. If i am mistaken in any of this, please tell me so, as I am a water professional and I do periodically have to answer questions like these.
     
  6. cowboy joe

    cowboy joe Hired Hand

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    The previous owner was a 90+ year old widow. She was amazingly spry for her age and had all her faculties about her. Not sure if someone sold her a pig in a poke or if it was really needed. The well is shallow and is located between a couple of apple trees. The deer congregate near the trees in the fall for the apples but I doubt that there are enough droppings to contaminate the well.

    We've lost power many times. Never got sick from the water during those times...OK, so I'm not the sharpest crayon in the box...probably should have thought it through and hooked up the well pump & the UV system to the generator.

    Thanks for the thoughts. I sometimes forget to think outside the box. I'm running down the address of the local environmental lab. Figure I'll have two samples run...one with the UV...turn off the UV and let the water run to clear the line...then a take second sample without the UV. This should provide some insight into both the water quality and the effectiveness of the UV device if there is any bacteria.
     
  7. raymilosh

    raymilosh Well-Known Member

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    folks suggest to collect the sample from right at the wellhead if there's a spigot there. that way you're getting water straightfrom the well and have minimized the well water contact with other parts of your plumbing system.
    An env health lab can probably run the analyses, but a state or county agency extension agent can come check out your well, collect the sample, give you advice and answer site specific questions. All in all, they can be an excellent resource
     
  8. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

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    Cowboy Joe,

    You mentioned that your well is shallow. That may be the key, right there.

    I talked with our county sanitarian when we moved here, and they will do a test for free. They only test for e. coli and... something esle, I forgot what.

    We have a 25 ft hand dug well here. He said that with the shallow wells they always recommend UV or chlorine treatment of the water because, being shallow, they are more susceptible to problems leaching in.
     
  9. dale

    dale Well-Known Member

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    We use the ultra violiet light here but it is at the end of our sewer plant.. I understand your problem of buying the bulbs.. we pay over 1000. per year..
    just in bulbs.. not counting the eletric.
     
  10. Alex

    Alex Well-Known Member

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    We had our shallow well tested. It tested great. Safe to drink.

    We do not drink it, normally, (rather we purchase bottled water instead). We dump a cup of bleach into our well once every two weeks. And we have three filters in series, and a water softener. Our water is clear, cool even in summer, soft (only after we added the softener) and is very nice in every way, and tastes great. Our non softened water is very high in minerals, like calcium, magnesium, and other important trace minerals, and would probably be a tonic to drink and excellent for the garden, if we didn't soften it and drank it, which we don't.

    The main idea, I think, is to have it tested, then figure out what treatment is needed or desired.

    Good luck,

    Alex