Three Rivers Community Services District
Publications and Reports
MAINTAINING YOUR WELL
By Tim Williams - Larry Walker Associates
A great number of small water systems in CA and NV have wells as their principal source of water supply. A few maintenance tips to keep the well producing a sufficient quantity and quality of water and troubleshooting problems before they become severe are as follows:
1. Obtain historical records of your well including well drillers log, e-log, pump test, static and pumping ground water levels, specific capacity (gpm/ft. of drawdown) of the well, pump and intake tube settings in the well, water quality test results, and any repairs or maintenance work completed. Sources oft his information include Dept. of Water Resources (well drillers log), well drilling contractor, County and State Dept. of Health Service offices, and power company (PG&E performs pump tests on wells). Keep the records you obtain on file.
2. Equip your well with two pressure gauges (one on each side of check valve for indicating the condition of the check valve), running time meter on the controls, and water meter with a flow indicator and flow totalizer (a meter will provide an indication if the well production has dropped off). There are a variety of types available depending on the flow rate of the well pump. Read and record the pressure, hours of operation, flow rate, and total quantity of water pumped daily (weekly at most) approximately at the same time each day.
3. Sample the water at the well and visually check for solids, discoloration, and if available measure temperature, pH, chlorine (if used) and electrical conductivity (EC) with portable meters on a weekly to monthly basis. If you do not have a pH/EC meter at your disposal, call around to other water utilities nearby and ask if they have the testing equipment and would test the samples at no charge. A swimming pool colorimeter test kit for testing o pH and chlorine residual can also be used. Record any observations or reading. Also have a current sampling plan on file with you regulatory agency (DOHS or County Environmental Health office) and comply with the requirements of the plan.
4. Check water levels in the well through the vent pipe, sounding tube, or removable plug at the well head during pumping and static water conditions approximately once every one to two months and record the information in a log.
5. Contact you local power company. They may have a program where they will pump test your well and give you a report on the efficiency of the well at no charge (PC&E does this for most of its customers).
6. Approximately once every 3 months to 1 year measure volts and amps of well pump motor under starting and running conditions with a volt/amp meter and resistance of drop cable (submersible pump) with a meager. Record the measurements in a logbook and compare the data to the volt and amp ratings of the pump and desired resistance. If the utility does not have the equipment or trained staff, consider contracting with a qualified electrician to measure the readings and/or train your staff to perform the measurements safely and correctly.
7. Periodically pull the well pump and TV inspect the well, approximately once every 7 to 10 years. Consider TV inspecting the well immediately if well production falls off and cannot be explained by a lower pumping water level or if the well is pumping sand. Plan to clean and complete repairs of the well by various methods depending on the condition of the well. Inspect the pump, pump motor and cable (if submersible type), bearings and line shaft (if turbine type), and column pipe. Repair or replace worn or damaged equipment. Contracting for this work by a well driller, pump supplier/installer or authorized pump representative with the appropriate equipment will most likely be required. Request and check reference of previous clients to assist in selecting a reputable contractor.
This article (by permission) contains excerpts from an article written by ON TAP Editor Beth Cahape with assistance from EPA Microbiologist Paul Berger, Ph.D.
Microbiological Contaminants- Where do outbreaks occur?
There are thousands of microbial species (living organisms) in water and in human intestines. Only a few of these species present a risk to health. Harmful microorganisms that cause disease are called pathogens, and many of these come from human and animal wastes.
A 1991 study by Gunther F. Craun of the EPA, examines the number of reported waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States from 1920 to 1988. Operators and managers of small systems should note that of the waterborne disease outbreaks documented since 1971, many have occurred in small community and non-community water systems.
Isn’t groundwater safe?
Operators or managers of small groundwater systems often feel that they can rely on the natural filtration of the subsoil to protect their source water from microbiological contamination. Here again, the conclusions of EPA studies might surprise small system personnel.
The statistics show that in the 1980s nearly half of all reported waterborne outbreaks occurred in groundwater systems. The Craun study should server as a warning that, although over 90 percent of small water systems use groundwater as their source, this does not necessarily mean that they will have naturally filtered, pathogen-free water.
Waterborne pathogens that might be found in drinking water are normally in one of three categories: bacteria, viruses, or protozoa. Each category of pathogen has unique characteristics and can present different treatment challenges.
Bacteria, for example, are a large group of single-celled organisms visible only under a microscope. The vast majority are harmless and many are beneficial to humans and the environment. In fact, life on earth could not continue without them.
However, a few of the bacterial species are the cause of disease in humans. When water containing bacteria is consumed, it generally causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
The first approach to bacterial contamination is to install disinfectant treatment and use it on a continuing basis. If this treatment is already in place, the operator should either flush the system periodically with water or start other control measures. Additionally, water system operators or managers will need to investigate the source of the contamination and determine how they might protect their watershed in the future.
What about viruses?
Viruses are even smaller microscopic particles than bacteria, and are only able to multiply inside living cells. They can also cause infection in both animals and plants. There are probably thousands of different types of viruses, and hundreds have been identified. Some of the more common diseases that airborne viruses can cause are mumps, measles, chicken pox, the common cold, and influenza. These particular viruses are not, however, carried in water.
An EPA document about drinking water microbes describes the symptoms from waterborne viruses as ranging from minor stomach flue complaints to fata liver conditions. A waterborne virus like Hepatitis A can cause liver failure and is one of the most important microorganisms that water system personnel need to protect their community from.
Common waterborne viruses can multiply in the human intestine and be excreted in feces. As a result, sewage and polluted water sources often contain viruses in high concentrations.
Typically, viruses can be eliminated with the same sorts of disinfectants used on bacteria, unless the source water is highly polluted with sewage waste.
What about Cryptosporidium?
The Cryptosporidium that contaminated Milwaukee’s drinking water belongs to the third category of waterborne pathogens, one-celled animals called protozoa.
Another common protozoan is the parasite Giardia, which causes a sever intestinal ailment called giardiasis. In Crauns’ study, giardiasis accounted for 103 reported outbreaks, resulting in a total of 25,834 illnesses between 1971 and 1988. According to one EPA document, from 1971 and 1985, giardiasis was the most frequently diagnosed waterborne disease.
Like cryptosporidiosis, more severe symptoms of giardiasis may include diarrhea, severe dehydration, weight loss, and fatigue. A person infected with Giardia may be ill with these symptoms for months, or even longer. With cryptosporidiosis, symptoms may be controlled in a much shorter time, but many experts feel that Cryptosporidium may be an important contributing factor in AIDS deaths.
Protozoa are also microscopic, and although they are usually single-celled organisms, they are more complex in structure and life cycle than bacteria or viruses. Both Cryptosporidium and Giardia have life cycles that produce cysts, which means that they have a protective shell around them. This cyst stage protects the protozoa when it is in the environment, and helps it to resist disinfectants like chlorine.
Giardia and ‘Crypto’ are associated primarily with surface water because soil usually acts as a filter for their removal. But, even though most small systems are groundwater systems, these systems’ operators should not automatically assume they are safe from protozoa. If you do find them in groundwater, there is good reason to suspect that you water is under the direct influence of surface water. Currently, public systems are not required to test for protozoa like Crypto.
Tulare County Health Department Division of Environmental Health
PROCEDURE FOR DISINFECTION OF WATER FOR EMERGENCY USE
Several methods can be used to disinfect small quantities of water for human consumption.
1. Bring water to a full boil for 10 minutes (this method is not dependable at high elevations). Pouring boiled water back and forth between containers will eliminate much of the flat taste boiling causes.
2. Add 2 drops of Tincture of Iodine to each quart of water. Let water stand for 30 minutes before using.
3. Add household bleach (5% Hypochlorite) to water as recommended below:
1 quart. . . . . . . . . . . 1 drop
1 gallon . . . . . . . . . 4 drops
2 gallons . . . . 1/4 teaspoon
5 gallons . . . . 1/3 teaspoon
10 gallons . . . 2/3 teaspoon
100 gallons . . . 6 teaspoons or 1 ounce
1,000 gallons . . . 10 ounces
The recommended doses are for turbid waters. Clear water from wells or good springs use ½ the recommended dose. Let water stand for 30 minutes before using.
PROCEDURE FOR DISINFECTING WELLS
Disinfection of a well is recommended to eliminate disease causing organisms and other organisms, which can and sometimes do grow in wells. The latter cause clogging and effect the quality of the water produced.
A well should also be disinfected following repair, maintenance or replacement of the pump. For a new well, disinfection should be conducted following development, testing for yield and installation of the pump. When there is a delay in pump installation, interim or partial disinfection should be undertaken.
Disinfection generally involves at least six steps:
1. Remove the threaded inspection plug from the cap on top of the well. Place a funnel in this entry port and pour one (1) to three (3) gallons of domestic or household bleach such as Clorox, Purex, etc. into the well, depending on the size of the casing and depth of the well.
2. Open all faucets until the odor of chlorine is detected at water outlets, including faucets or fittings, sprinklers, drip lines, irrigation lines, etc. Do not forget the showerhead, dishwasher and toilets.
3. Close all outlets and allow water to remain in all water lines and well, preferably overnight or longer, if possible. Limit water usage during these critical hours.
4. The next day, open all outlets until the odor of all chlorine has disappeared. The water supply should then be free of chlorine.
5. Have the water re-sampled for bacteriological quality.
Note: Disposal of the chlorinated water should be away from trees, shrubs, or lawns and into storm sewers, drainage ditches, etc. Such water should not be flushed into plumbing system of homes that use individual septic tanks.
6. Test results:
a. The absence of bacteriological contamination is usually a sign that the problem has been corrected. Sampling at a later date is recommended to verify that the contamination has not returned.
b. If bacteria are still present, the water must still be considered unsafe to drink. It is then recommended that you contact a pump company, a well driller of the health department to discuss your options.
SAFE DRINKING WATER HOTLINE
Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Safe Drinking Water Hotline is available to help the regulated community, State and local officials, and the public understand the regulations and programs developed in response to the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1986.
The Hotline can provide callers with information about EPA’s drinking water regulations, guidance, and public education materials. Specifically, the Hotline staff can:
• Clarify drinking water regulations and provide appropriate Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulation citations, and explain EPA’s policies and guidelines.
• Provide updates on the status of drinking water regulations and policies.
• Provide information on the availability of technical publications, guidance documents, and regulations regarding drinking water and ground water.
• Provide Federal, State, and local contacts for specific information on local drinking water conditions, bottled water, home water treatment units, and ground water protection. (The Hotline, however, cannot discuss manufacturers or recommend brand name water treatment units.)
• Provide State contacts for EPA-certified labs that test drinking water. The State Lab Certification Officer can then provide callers with certified labs in their area.
The Hotline is operated by LABAT-ANDERSON Incorporated under contract to EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.
The Information Specialists have expert knowledge of EPA’s drinking water regulations and policies, gained through a comprehensive training program and daily interaction with the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.
The Safe Drinking Water Hotline operates Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5;30 p.m. ET, excluding Federal holidays.
Callers within the United States and Canada may reach the Safe Drinking Water Hotline by dialing 1-800-426-4791.
SAMPLING PROCEDURE FOR BACTERIA IN WATER
1. Telephone the T.R.C.S.D. office prior to taking the water sample to be certain the office is open and staffed.
2. Use only the bottle provided by the T.R.C.S.D. Do not empty or rinse the bottle prior to filling.
3. Choose a sampling tap that is in a clean environment. Consider protection from contamination from animals, airborne materials, and other sources. It should be a tap that is in frequent use and clean. Select a tap that does not have an aerator, strainer, or other attachment if possible.
4. Flush the line sufficiently to draw water representative of the normal quality of the drinking water supply (approximately three minutes). Hold the bottle at or near the bottom and remove the cap from the test bottle provided. Do not touch the inside of the cap or the lip of the bottle. Only the water being tested should be permitted to com in contact with the inside of the bottle or lid. Do not allow the bottle to overflow.
5. Slowly fill the bottle to approximately the line shown on the bottle. Replace the cap on the bottle and then turn off the tap.
6. Place the bottle in a suitable container for transport to T.R.C.S.D. The use of an ice cooler for storage is recommended if the sample cannot be delivered within one hour. Even under iced conditions, the sample must be delivered within four hours.
Test conducted Monday through Thursday only from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Phone before taking sample – 559-561-3480
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR SEPTIC TANK SYSTEM
Septic systems are individual on-site wastewater treatment systems that use bacteria and the soil to treat our wastewater. There are many variations to the system design but all have in common the following:
• A septic system consists of a septic tank, a distribution box and a drain field, all connected by pipes.
• The septic tank begins to treat your house-hold wastewater by temporarily holding it in the first compartment of the tank. Here heavy solids and lighter scum are allowed to separate from the wastewater. This is called the primary treatment. The solids stored in the tank are decomposed by bacteria. That which is not broken down, along with grease and other floating scum, must be removed periodically by a professional septic pumper.
• In the second compartment of the septic tank more solids settle out, allowing the relatively clear wastewater to leave the tank and flow into a distribution box, which separates the water flow into a network of drain field trenches. Drainage holes in the trench pipes allow the water to filter through the surrounding gravel and ultimately seeping slowly into the surrounding soil. Bacteria and other microorganisms in the soil further treat and purify the liquid, this is called secondary treatment. A properly functioning septic system does not pollute the groundwater and should function for many years.
COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED ABOUT SEPTIC SYSTEMS
Is the liquid coming from the septic tank “safe?”
No. Any way you look at it, septic tank effluent is sewage with some solids removed. It is still capable of spreading disease, breeding mosquitoes, causing odors and a nuisance.
Will it harm the septic tank to use disinfectants and bleaches for laundry and dishwashing?
No. The amounts of such products normally used should not harm the septic tank operation.
Should I use a starter, cleaner or other treatment aids in my septic tank?
No. It is not necessary to add yeast, raw meat, enzymes or other chemicals to start bacterial action in the tank. While starters or treatment aids are offered for sale, none are approved by this agency.
How often should I have the septic tank pumped?
It should be opened and inspected every three years or so, to see whether pumping is necessary. Most tanks will require pumping between three to five years. By periodic pumping of your tank, you will reduce the amount of solids and grease entering the drain field and extend its life and the need for expensive repairs.
Should kitchen sink and laundry waste to into a separate tank?
No. All wastewater from the home should be plumbed into a single large septic tank.
How can I reduce the amount of wastewater that goes into the drain field?
Considering the waste coming from your plumbing is over 95% water, it is wise to reduce that portion of the waste flow. How –
• Repair leaky fixtures (faucets, toilets, etc.).
• Wash clothes/dishes only when you have a full load.
• Take short showers instead of baths.
• Use water saving devices in your toilet tank or install a new low-flow toilet.
• Install low-flow showerheads.
• Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket, for spider disposal, etc.
How can I tell when my drain field is malfunctioning?
• When there are odors, persistent wet spots and/or lush growth of grass in the area of your field.
• Your plumbing drains become sluggish when used heavily or during wet weather.
• Problems continue even though the septic tank has been recently pumped out.
Don’t build patios, driveways, house additions, etc. over the tank or leach field. Verify location before starting projects.
Don’t discharge drain gutters, patio drains, and foundation perimeter drains over leach field areas.
Don’t plant trees which require and seek great amounts of water over the leach field.
Don’t use commercial septic tank additives. None have been proven beneficial to the septic system and some may hurt your system in the long run.
Don’t use your toilet as a trash can by dumping non-degradables (candy wrappers, sanitary napkins, coffee grounds, etc) down you toilet or drains.
Do select licensed septic tank service people for pumping your tank. For repairing or additions to the system, use a license contractor. Both are listed in the yellow pages.
Do take leftover hazardous household chemicals to an approved County/City hazardous waste collection center for disposal.
Don’t poison your septic system and the groundwater by pouring harmful chemicals down the drain.
Do practice water conservation. Repair dripping faucets and leaking toilets, run washing machines and dishwashers only when full, avoid long showers, and use water saving features in faucets, showerheads and toilets.
Do keep a record of pumping, inspections, repairs and other maintenance.