In previous issues I talked about well flow tests. This issue will deal with how to properly assess the well and its components such as the pressure switch and tank and the well pump itself. I will also mention a bit about what types of samples I recommend the buyer take when assessing the quality of the well water.
Most wells in the Midwest are drilled wells consisting of a 5 -6” well casing that is usually 80 – 500’ in depth with the average depth about 200’ or less. The second type of well is a bored well that is usually dug with a bucket type of tool or an auger and is generally about 36” in diameter. Drilled wells almost always have a submersible pump in the well. The bored wells can have the same set up or the pump may be in the home. Regardless of the style your acreage has you will want to check a few things to see if the system is working properly. First of all, there should be a pressure switch and possibly but not always, a starter switch inside the basement. The pressure switch should start the pump when the water pressure is about 30psi and turn the pump off when the pressure reaches about 60psi. If the pressure tank is not working right or is full of water the pressure switch may cycle on and off every few seconds when the water is running eventually causing the pump to burn out.
If you have never experienced the intricacies of well water equipment it is likely best to hire an inspector, driller or water specialist to guide you through the process, as little problems can leave you without water and a large bill. The last item I want to discuss is the topic of testing well water quality. At Border Home Inspections we recommend the standard well potablity test for e-coli, coliforms and nitrates. In addition I believe the well should have a full chemical analysis preformed to show the presence of other water contaminants that affect the water, more then your immediate health. The chemical analysis costs about $100 but it alerts you to the presence such chemicals as manganese, lead, iron, and many other unwanted minerals. If your wells has a high concentration of contaminants and or minerals you will likely be faced with adding a filtration system to make the water safe and aesthetically pleasing for drinking and bathing. Trust me when I say it is not nice to have a bath and feel that you were cleaner before you went in. If the water is terrible, its terrible and you may be forced to filter it. I believe it is best to know this going into the purchase rather then finding out the first week you move in. Go tohttp://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/wwg408 to learn what the Alberta Government has to say on the topic.