Advice for well that tests positive for coliform bacteria

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog. Water is life.' started by Craig Engleman, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. Craig Engleman

    Craig Engleman New Member

    Jul 30, 2012
    I'm looking for some advice in regards to a well having bacteria in it.

    Background: The well was constructed in the 70's and is a 6" steel casing that I've recently converted to using a pitless adapter and submersible 1.5HP pump. I'm using the well with our new home that was just constructed; we've been living there about 1 month. Prior to living in the house, I installed the pitless adapter on the casing and installed the submersible pump. I ran the plumbing underground through a hole I drilled in the basement wall and set up the well pressure tank. The pressure tank is a new Flexcon FL 82 gallon equivalent tank, which I bought to hopefully account for the increased load on the well that comes with having 2 1/2 baths and a larger home than what has previously used the well. Once the pressure tank was set up I shock chlorinated the system and had to just run the bleach out of the water with a hose connected to the pressure tank because the plumbing in the home was not yet completed. I have not shocked the well again since the plumbing was finished and connected to the pressure tank, or since I installed a water softener. This well has seen my wife's great grandmother have a house on it using this well, then her uncle using it connected to a trailer, so we have a decent idea of it's history and it hasn't ever had any problems. I'm told it was well constructed. When I hooked it up to our house, I decided to replace everything (pump, tank, fittings, etc.) as it had previously used a jet pump with a steel pressure tank inside a big ugly well house that would have been right in my front yard.

    It took me a while to complete testing for bacteria in the water because I had to send it overnight to another city. Anyway, I just got the test results back and the results were positive for coliform (>200.5) but showed no signs of E. Coli.

    My question then is do you think shocking the well again and letting it sit in the household plumbing may correct the issue? I understand that shock chlorination will only kill the present bacteria and does not do anything to correct the source of the problem. However, my thinking is that since the well had been unused and undisturbed for several years before I used it and since I didn't have an opportunity to shock it with everything set up, that maybe I just jumped the gun and was guilty of trying to shock it too soon to be effective.

    Also, we did run into one problem using the well--one night after bathing my son, my wife taking a bath in our whirlpool, and then me taking a 3rd bath in the whirlpool, we had a problem with running out of water. It took nearly a day for the well to recover. My thinking was that we pumped enough water to get the static water line slightly below the pumping level where the pump was located and then had to wait for the well to fill up enough above the pump to be used again. Since that time, we haven't had any other issues, although I have made a point not to try to use enough water for 3 baths in a short period again. The well depth is about 45 ft with the static water line being about 21 1/2' above. I originally put the submersible pump in about 35 ft (or 10ft from the bottom). As of yesterday, I lowered it a few more feet to try to prevent future problems, since I knew I would need to shock the well again anyway. I was curious as to whether pumping the well dry (or below the submersible pump) that maybe that could have led bacteria formation as well.

    So, does anyone have any advice? Should I consider looking into UV or chlorine treatment systems, or just wait to see what the next set of test results tell me?
  2. Mike Pastorelli

    Mike Pastorelli New Member

    Jul 12, 2012
    Basically, your in the shallow water aquifer and at that depth - most are pollutted. Coliform bacteria is usually from leaking septics and animal wastes. Just invest in a good filter system with UV. You could also use this simple solutuon for drinking water - fill glass jugs with water and set them in direct sunlight ( UV ) for 6 to 8 hours. This kills just about every bacteria that could harm you even E-COLI. If your close to industry watch out for Nitrates. Nitrates indicate industrial run-off pollution and IMHO very bad and cancer causing
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  4. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

    Mar 15, 2006
    Pump Controls Technician
    Lubbock, Texas
    Need to flame the faucet before drawing a sample. Easy to get the sample contaminated by the testing procedure itself, especially when shipping it off. Might want to ask this in the Water Softener Forum. They know about this kind of stuff.
  5. bcpumpguy

    bcpumpguy New Member

    Jul 27, 2012
    Langley BC
    Coliform is not an indicator of sewage or animal waste infiltration e-coli is. coliform is a generalization of all types of living organisms harmfull or unharmfull. You're well being 45 feet deep does not right away mean that you are drawing from a surfacewater source allthough all wells under 50 feet are classed as Gudi well (groundwater under direct influence of infiltration) this is not always the case. If your well was drilled trough a clay layer there is a very good chance that it was drilled into a confined aquifer. Local well drillers could comment on this.

    When you do a chlorination you need to make sure you do it right, PH is a factor, high ph will make a chlorination useless as the germicidal effect is not as great, ideally a ph of mid 6 should be used (can be achieved with adding vinegar to well, not directly to chlorine!!). You need to make sure that you add the right ammount of chlorine, many online sources will give you a formula for the well casing to get your ppm's right, however when you disinfect you need to get the house to so this needs to be taken into account. Having a way to test the actual dosage which should be somewhere between 75ppm and 150 would be great. Too much chlorine does not help but actually has the opposite effect.

    When i do a chlorination I will add the solution to the well in stages, i check ph lower if needed, add chlorine, recirculate with a garden hose to the well for about 30 mins then get the chlorine to the house (every tap even hot water!) as i do this i will check the chlorine level at least twice, if not adequate i add more. i finish by checking the levels of the actual well by testing the water circulating down the well to make sure they are adequate and add chlorine to the well if needed. recirculating is crucial as it stirs up the well, gets the side of the casing and pushes chlorine down to the screen of the well.

    note if the well has not been chlorinated for years it might need several treatments as bacteria can become hard to remove due to layers of it, if the well is drawing from a surface water source then buy a uv. I reccomend to test for bacteria on a yearly basis, make sure you have proper well cap that seals the well of completely and has screened vents, wells should be finished 1 foot above grade to prevent flooding issues.
  6. Craig Engleman

    Craig Engleman New Member

    Jul 30, 2012
    Thanks for the replies. I'm pretty sure that if the well was deeper, it would still have issues just due to the age of it. In addition to being not very deep, I'd be willing to be it has other infiltrations of the soil since pulling the pump results in it and the last 2-3 feet of poly pipe being covered in orange. I'm assuming this is Georgia red clay, since the test results were negative for iron or iron bacteria. Also, Mike, I don't have the results in front of me, but I don't think there were any signs of nitrates. The property that this well is on is 12 acres of a few hundred that was in my wife's family at one point in time. There really is not any farm land to speak of any more or commercial sites. Our property used to be pasture back in the day, but has since grown up and is wooded.

    Valveman, the test kit sample bottle was coated on the inside with a chlorine power or something like that; also, the instructions said to soak the faucet in bleach prior to sampling. Looking back on it, I should have probably picked a different faucet besides my kitchen pull down faucet, but I was in a hurry and had to get the sample before going to work so it would arrive to the lab within the 24 hour requirement. Also, I will go ahead and post in the water softener forum.

    bcpumpguy - That's what I thought on the coliform and e-coli. I would be much more concerned if there was any trace of e-coli. It is definitely drilled into clay - also, the excavator mentioned something before building that the area had a lot of shale deposits making it hard to grow anything. I'm not sure if that means anything in this instance or not. As for ph, I again don't have the lab results with me, but the ph was pretty good. Really, the only thing that is wrong with the quality of the water, other than coliform is a high amount of sodium and it is also moderately hard at around 5 grains per gallon. I went ahead and used a sodium based water softener to soften the water even with the high amount of sodium already in the water. I may at some point try to use potassium instead. When I originally shocked the well, I did circulate the water from a hose back down the well casing, but in all honesty, I probably used far too much bleach. I think I used an entire bottle. The problem with the well "experts" in my area is that they apparently just throw a bunch of bleach in, pump it for a while and call it a day. The same people told me they didn't think they could help me install my well equipment because they didn't know how you'd drill the hole in the metal casing for the pitless adapter without a cutting torch. (Which I've heard is toxic to use on galvanized steel). So needless to say, I'm sort of on my own around here. As for the well cap, I'm not sure if it is the best or not. It doesn't have screened vents as far as I know. It is just 2 pieces of aluminum that are bolted together between a rubber gasket. I tried to use a better cap, but the OD of the casing is an odd size--it is over 5", but not quite 6".

    I'll just go ahead and shock it properly according to your recommendations and keep following up on testing. My major concern was in regard to precautionary methods. I was not 100% sure that UV would be the best solution or if chlorine pellets or liquid injection might be more helpful.
  7. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Dec 28, 2009
    "retired" and still building and troubleshooting
    northfork, california
    Chlorine, major recirculate down the hole, chlorine smell at ALL taps, 24 hour wait, flush, tests. Only the E-coli is the killer. Cleaned MANY wells that way.

    Cover your well head, and silicone any gaps. If you need a vent it must have some sort of filter. could be a 1 micron water filter connected with a flex line.

    Next time, put all three of you in the tub, or at least share the water. Add a little hydrogen peroxide and baking soda between seatings - good for the body.
  8. craigpump

    craigpump In the Trades

    Apr 12, 2012
    Self employed water system tech
    We see this a lot. When you chlorinate your well, be sure to pull the chlorine through the ENTIRE system. Faucets, showers, flush the toilets, run the out door spigots, run the dish washer and the washing machine. How about your refrigerator? Does it have a water spigot? Does your home have a humidifier on the heating system? If you miss one thing, the bacteria will reproduce and contaminate the system all over again.
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