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Disinfecting Your Well Water

Your well water was tested when the well was installed for bacteria and nitrates, but it should still be periodically disinfected. Your well water may be contaminated by septic systems, animal feedlots, surface runoff, and fertilizer. However, most wells are installed to prevent this contamination by setbacks and other rules governing the location of the well.

Safe water should have no coliform bacteria, reported as either “<2.2 / 100ml” (less than 2.2 coliform organisms per 100 milliliters) in the multiple tube method, or “<1 / 100ml” in the membrane filter method. Nitrate-nitrogen should be no more than 1 mg/1 (milligrams per liter). If the presence of nitrate-nitrogen is not caused by infiltration of sewage or surface drainage, the safe limit for infant feeding is 10mg/1. If you are concerned about the quality of your well water, contact your county health department. You can also find water testing companies in your yellow pages, as well as water testing kits online.

Wells should be disinfected at least once a year. We do ours in the spring and the fall just to be safe. One indication that your well needs disinfecting is if the water starts to smell like rotten eggs.

To disinfect your well:
  • Pump the well until the water is as clear and free from sediment as possible.
  • Mix a solution of household chlorine bleach (1 cup bleach with 5.25 % available chlorine) to 5 gallons of clean water.
  • Remove the well cap and pour the solution into the well slowly so that it washes the sides of the well casing. DO NOT ALLOW THE WATER TO COME IN CONTACT WITH THE ELECTRICAL WIRES OR CASING FROM YOUR PUMP! The pump or pumping equipment may also have to be removed. We turn off the power to our pump and carefully pour in the water so we don’t have to remove the pump.
  • Open each faucet, tap, or hydrant in the plumbing system one at a time, until the odor of the chlorine bleach can be detected. Leave the chlorinated water in the system at least 2hours, preferably overnight.
  • The next day, use an outside water faucet to run the water until you can no longer smell the chlorine. Open each faucet, tap, or hydrant until the water is free of chlorine odor.


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