Living with well water


My wife & I are looking at houses on the outskirts of the Seattle area. I posted awhile back about septic systems, which many of these houses have & which I had never experienced, & got some good feedback. Often, these same houses have well water, which outside of those hand operated pumps in parks etc., I haven't really had much contact with. I'm sure it varies from one well to another, but in general, what's it like living with well water? You hear horror stories about whole neighborhoods having their wells contaminated from some long abandoned factory etc. Also about the water having a bad taste sometimes, being exceptionally hard, so it's tough on fixtures, clothes washed in it, your skin, and so on. I'm guessing there are filtration systems you can install, as well as water softeners. Is there generally a pump present? Any helpful observations appreciated!
Dan
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Talk to your neighbors. Around here, wells are dreadfully hard, but that might not be the case where you are.
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Thanks for the reply. Where we live now we have municipal water, we're not living in a well area yet. Maybe the county could provide some info though, I'll try calling them tomorrow.
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He meant, Talk to your prospective neighbors.
On this issue, you probably won't have the problem I did. I went next to the townhouse next door and asked the neighbor what the n'hood was like. She said it was nice, there were no real problems. What she left out is that she was the real problem, at least her dog which barked from 11 to 11:15 at night, and from 6:45 to 7 in the morning, preventing me from getting a full 8 hours sleep. It drove me crazy, and they didn't like it much either but they didnt' get rid of it until it started negative interacting with their new baby. Thank goodness for that, or I'd be in a mental hospital now, or I would have killed the dog. This doesn't seem relevant to you except to say that people don't notice their own faults.
I would also say, Look at all the sinks for traces of deposits, and take a drink from the faucet. not just the kitchen faucet which might have some sort of filter (although you can look under the sink) but the bathroom and laundry faucets. maybe it tastes ok because of equipment they installed, but at least then the equipemnet is already installed. Look in the basement to see what equipment is installed.
If I weren't sure, I might take a quart or two of water home, to taste it at my leisure, or to compare with your current water, or to test it in ways you can't do at someone else's house. Bring your own bottles.
I think I had a girlfriend who had little more than a pump, but the first summer I knew her she said her well went dry, and for 6 weeks she carted in water from work. Tap water, of course. Finally she got tired of this and called someone to find out her pump was broken! And the well was not dry. I think the house was only 2 to 5 years old.
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The houses are fairly spread apart. I'm not sure one person's OK well would translate into mine being OK. Plus as you suggest (and as did the well driller), they may not know what they're talking about. And even if it tastes fine, unless they have it tested, they may not know about other issues.

I can really relate to that. I like dogs & have owned 3, none right now, but I really, REALLY can't stand people who allow their dogs to bark. We decided against one very promising house because on our 3 visits to the property, the idiots next door were allowing their THREE dogs to bark incessantly. Just not worth the aggravation.

Agreed about the stains in sinks, etc. But the house has been completely redone, everything is new, including the sinks, so that's no help. So far we have only seen the inside of the house at night. I'm planning to drive up there tomorrow to get a look at the area in the daytime. The house is currently vacant; I may take along a distilled water jug & grab a sample from an outside tap. We do like this house, very nicely redone & just about everything we're looking for. But the water thing is a pretty major issue. On the other hand, where we live now, our our total water/sewer bill is about $170 every 2 months. On one recent bill, ~$60 of this was water service, ~$35 was storm & surface water service, & ~$80 was wastewater service. Don't know how the storm & surface would be handled in a septic/well area, but at least the water/wastewater savings would be there.
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Dan wrote:

I wouldn't worry about it. If the water is hard, you soften it. If it is gritty, you filter it. I wouldn't think either would be the case in your area.
As far as taste goes, I would FAR rather have water with a touch of mineral taste than the overly chlorinated municipal water in many areas. ____________________

You'll save a bit but you'll have to contend with maintenance/replacement/nuisance...
1. Septic tanks need to be pumped (sludge removed) every few years
2. Neither septic tanks nor drain fields last forever
3. Pumps and pressure tanks don't last forever. If a pump goes bad - or is hit by lighning - expect to spend at least $1500 to replace it.
4. If your power goes out you have no water save whatever small amount happens to be in the pressure tank.
--

dadiOH
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Not necessarily.
Nick
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Not necessarily.

A concrete tank should; a drain field that isn't abused should.

A home insurance item (BTDT).

Generator.
Cheers, Banty (septic and well)
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Well....let me get my sales pitch prepared...
The first thing I'd do if I were you - have it inspected by a driller. I own a drilling company, but we don't do inspections right now, so alas. Have it inspected should be able to tell you whether or not the well is up to code - this is important because the local Health Department will want to know that it is up to code before approving any development activities you may pursue (guest house, etc). Also, the person inspecting the well should provide you with a document showing that it is up to code, if it is. Additionally, any property you buy shoudl come with a water well report, unless the well is extremely old (more than 25 years) - this would be equivalent to the document an inspectio would provide you.
The big concern is whether or not the well has been properly sealed & capped. When we drill wells, we drill a 10" hole to 18ft, & then set a 6" steel casing inside of that. We pour a bentinite clay in to create a seal (it swells on hydration & remains that way). Also, if the well hasn't been capped & stayed capped - all sorts of creepy crawlies have been down that thing.
The pumps are usually submersible - ie down the bore hole. I wouldn't use anything else, except to draw from a holding tank system. You should have the pump system inspected also. They are normally 230v systems that can pump anywhere from 5 to 100+ gallons per minute. Some pump less because the bore hole doesn't make as much as the pump can actually pull - this is where you'd usually run into a holding tank situation (except King Co. which usually requires holding tanks on almost every house has a well - fire sprinklers & what not).
Ultimately, I'd ask the real estate agent or the seller to provide these documents - if you decide not to take it, it would be good for them to have those documents for the next potential vic...buyer.
Anyway, that's a bit rambling - I have kids that are demanding to be read to as I finish this....you can contact me at snipped-for-privacy@jkawelldrilling.com if there are more Q's.
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On Mar 7, 8:16 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Oh, additionally....neighbors are generally unreliable....For some reason, we consistently run into people on the drill site that say "my well is only 50 feet deep". Then, as you drill into an acquifer at 250ft, they come back and say "my well is only 150 feet deep".....which is great, but...rather inconsistent, no?
The Department of Ecology maintains a publicly available database of water well reports at www.ecy.wa.gov
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if there are more Q's.

Thanks for the informative reply! Very helpful! I'm going to the eco page now. BTW, house in question (most recent one we're considering) is in the Tiger Mountain area of Issaquah.
Dan
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Ick, that's a tough area...If it's on the actual slope, especially near the Issaquah Hobart Rd, it can be just nasty. Usually the wells are around 100 feet deep, don't produce much, and I've heard of some silt problems. The drilling's not fun either! We have a sort of ongoing project on Tiger Mountain Rd - so far for a 4 lot subdivision, we've put in a 600 foot well, a 100 foot well, and there was another 100 foot well on site - total yield between all three wells is roughly 4 gallons per minute after 4 hours of pumping....
Again, every well is different, so you have to have them inspected/ tested.
AM Test laboratories in Redmond is an actual water testing lab - they don't sell treatment systems.
B&J Pump Service is up in that area....they are rather difficult to get onto a site sometimes, but they can inspect the well for you.
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A simple thing you can do is go over there and take a jug of water from the faucet. Taste it in coffee, tea and straight. Those seem to be the ones that bother me. Drop a sample off at a water treatment company like Culligan and see what they try to sell you. I was raised on city water but I have been on a well for 25 years now. It is a maintenance issue you don't have with city water. I have 2 pumps, an aeriator tank, a softener and an RO, that also means 2 pump pressure switches, 3 bladder tanks and 3 float switches that can go bad. All of my equipment is inside so it does hold up better than those folks who just have it out in the yard (26th parallel, water doesn't freeze here)
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Dan,
A well is another thing that must be maintained. There's a pump, pumps wear out. There's a pressurized holding tank, the bladder will eventually develop a leak. There may be a foot valve. There may be a pump house. And it goes on. So find out how old the well stuff is and plan on replacing it every 20-30 yrs. The water that comes from the well should be tested. Bacteria are a bad sign. Water hardness can be a nuisance. These are fixable problems but may be expensive to fix.
Dave M.
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Another downside to a well, other than quality, is pressure. Taking a shower will not be as satisfying. You can get a booster pump, but you will pay around 1500$
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wrote:

Huh? THere's no excuse for that to be $1500.
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You can use water treatment systems to deal with hardness and some other issues. But, those don't always manage industrial contaminants, or an issue being dealt with now by a friend of mine: Farm chemicals, confirmed by two independent testing labs. It's an ugly situation that's going to cost her plenty to deal with. Take a good look around the area for the types of activity which might generate contamination. And, be sure your purchase offer is contingent not only on the usual home inspection, but also on the results of two water tests, paid for with your money, and performed by two unrelated companies. If you suspect you'll be living in the midst of a farm chemical carnival, be sure to mention this to the companies that test the water.
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There are old coal mines in that vacinity - but most are abandoned. If the well was drilled with a proper surface seal, there's a clay layer around 10 feet that will block any contaminants. Again, testing the water will inform you - also, you should test the water every year or two, along with shock treating the well with a chlorine solution (1 bottle of regular nonscented chlorine bleach down the well, let it pump through the whole water system by turning faucets on. Then let it stay in the system for at least 12 hours before flushing the chlorinated water out).
Other than the old coal mines, Issaquah area is...relatively highly controlled as far as development & environment issues. There really isn't any farming in that valley, nor do I think there was in the recent past (logging & mining more likely).
As far as the maintenance issues - yes they exist.....Take that money you're putting away to the utility company every month & put about 50% into a maint. savings account - when the water system issues start to pop they'll be expensive, but a new pump system, even the top of the line system, shouldn't run more than $5k. I'd check to see when the pump in their well was installed - again, they're only engineered for 7 to 10 years, but I've pulled them from wells still working after 50 years....so, it's really dependent on the design of the system. We've been putting pumps in for 22 years, roughly 750 total, and we've replaced 3.
As far as the pressure issue - Franklin Electric has a MonoDrive pump controller - it can be adapted to the single phase pump motor already installed in the well, & it gives you constant city like water pressure & adjustable pressure from 20 to 80 psi. Again, most of these issues can be conquered, but that fellow's right about one thing - it does come down to how much money you want to put into it.
Or, another option, replace the pressure switch with a higher ranged one - Terry, you might try swapping yours out with a 40-60 switch , as it sounds like you have a 30-50 switch.
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God I talk a lot....
One fellow mention septic issues - not really a big one up on Tiger Mtn - the first 5 feet of soils up there are generally hard pan, cobbles, & sand, fairly well drained. Get the system pumped, don't dump a huge amount of detergents down the septic lines, & just be aware that septic systems run on a bacteria-waste-disposal system - little creepy crawlies eat all your stuff up, that's why you don't want to dump lots of detergents down the lines.
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You have to be concerned with what's happened historically. Around here, some wells were found to be contaminated with gasoline from an underground storage tank that had never been dealt with properly by the previous owner of a gas station that had been flattened 20 years earlier. Unfortunately, the town official who signed off on the demolition permit was dead and buried, or he would've been in a heap of trouble.
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