If you are a homeowner with a well that supplies your drinking water, there are steps you should take to ensure that your water supply is protected and safe.
Pennsylvania does not regulate the construction or water quality in private wells.
When choosing the location of a new or replacement well, consideration should be given to possible sources of contamination. A well should be at least 50 feet away from any sewage lines or septic tanks and at least 100 feet from septic system absorption fields, barn yards or underground storage tank.
Well casings should extend above soil level at least 8 inches or high enough to prevent surface water from entering the well during potential flooding. The ground around the casing should slope away from the well to prevent surface water accumulating around the casing.
A sanitary well cap should be installed to prevent insects, small vermin or other contaminants from entering the well.
It is recommended that well water be sampled yearly for coliform bacteria. This sample should be analyzed by a laboratory that is certified for drinking water analysis by the state. You can find the labs listed in the yellow pages under “Testing Laboratories.” The laboratory will provide the homeowner with instructions on how to take the sample and the sample bottle. There should be zero coliform bacteria in the drinking water for it to be considered safe. If your drinking water has any coliform bacteria, it has the potential of being harmful. The presence of coliform bacteria indicates that there may be disease-causing organisms in the water.
If your lab results indicate that the water is unsafe, it can be boiled for one minute to kill any harmful bacteria. You should however disinfect your well and the water lines in your house with a chlorine solution. The procedure on how to disinfect your well can be found on the Erie County Department of Health website at www.ecdh.org, or you may request the information by calling the Department at 814/451-6752.
The disinfection procedure may not be a permanent solution if your well is poorly constructed. If a resample of the drinking water a month after the disinfection procedure shows a return of coliform bacteria, then permanent treatment should be installed. This would be a chlorinator or ultraviolet light that will kill the bacteria.
Proper well construction and monitoring of your drinking water will help to ensure that your drinking water is safe for you and your family.
This information is distributed by Erie County Department of Health, 606 W. 2nd Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-451-6700, www.ecdh.org