Where does your water come from? If your answer is “Uh…the

faucet?”,  then we applaud your blissful lack of problems in

this area! You’ve  probably always had enough water, and hopefully

always will.

  If you live in the city or town, you can hope that you will always  have clean,

plentiful water, well managed and monitored by an  intelligent, responsible

staff at the water treatment facility. This  water comes from the surface

environment - lakes and streams - then  gets treated with science, skill

and lots of equipment, for use and  consumption. The City of Ithaca’s water

source and its progress is a  fascinating saga and frequently in the news.

  Out in the country, you have the pride - and curse - of providing  your

own potable water, and it can sometimes be a challenge to make  sure

this is clean and plentiful.

  Ideally, a private well draws water from deep down, where’s it’s  protected

from surface contamination such as septic fields,  pesticides, and other

chemicals. This drilled opening into the earth  is sealed off from the surface

environment by a specially capped  vertical steel tube called the well casing, usually visible on the  property, but sometimes buried under the lawn. An underground  plastic horizontal pipe brings the water into the house, and this  pipe and its connections are all buried deep enough to be protected  from freezing.

   If you had a well drilled today, you might expect all of these  conditions to be met, but most wells are older, and were established  before the ever increasing environmental laws and awareness. At any  point along an older system, you may find openings to the air,  leaking fittings, and components that are at risk from freezing.

  Many people are just fine with all these supposed weaknesses, as  long as that water keeps coming out the faucet. We frequently  inspect older country homes where the longtime owners - now in their  80’s - are moving out, and the bank for the new buyers has a problem  with the old dug well out back. This type of well, just a hand-dug  deep circular hole in the ground with laid up stone walls, was once  the way all wells were done, and many are still in use with no  apparent problems.  We occasionally still see cisterns, concrete walled-off areas  forming a pool, in the basement of many country and some city homes.   Water was collected from the roof through gutters and directed into  the basement.  Most cisterns are dry these days, with the wall  broken through to make use of the space.

   Given today’s standards of use and quality, the older cisterns, dug  wells, lake water and other unprotected water sources are less and  less acceptable as testing, technology and information about water  improve.  Water can be tested for hundreds of compounds, and each  test has its own conditions of collection, time frame, and fee,  which can add up.  The most common test, usually required for a  property transaction, is total coliform, which detects contamination  from septic fields and decaying organic matter. If the well is  shallow and near farm fields, it's recommended to test for nitrates,  which can originate from industrial fertilizers.

   The problems with private water sources, such as low productivity,  sulfur, coliform, hardness, iron bacteria and others can often be  overcome these days with many and various treatments, including  rehabilitating the well itself. Finding the right treatment can  become not only a matter of chemistry but of space as well, since  the equipment needed can sometimes be quite large.

   A service company or well contractor can appraise the water and  volume, install and maintain the equipment for a one-time or monthly  fee. You can research and install this equipment yourself, though  care should be taken to do it right, since you might someday have to  explain all those pipes and switches to the next nervous buyer.

Campbell and Davies LLC    201 Dey St Suite 211 Ithaca, NY 14850   

607 216 0036    fax 607 216 0402   campbellanddavies@yahoo.com   


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