When a well is your primary source of drinking water, you need to be aware of potential contaminations. This could be from biological sources such as bacteria or algae development or from metals – including heavy metals. Some heavy metals, such as iron, do not present a particular health risk. However, 20% or more of all people in Florida get their water from a private well. Those people benefit from knowing the signs of a metallic presence in the water. But where do these metals come from, and how do they get in the well? What kind of metal might be in your water? Here are a few of the most common.

Iron

The presence of iron in the water shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Aquifers feed wells water. The water in aquifers comes from the surface as it filters down through the ground. Water moving through iron-bearing soil carries iron particulate with it and can be brought into your well by the pump. You can usually taste iron presence in your water. It is one of the most noticeable metals once it establishes itself. This is because it changes the water color and can stain fixtures and clothes.

There are two kinds of iron you may encounter – clear water iron (ferrous iron) is iron that has been dissolved into the water and red water iron (ferric iron) that has oxidized and produced rust. Oftentimes, iron bacteria can establish themselves in iron-rich water as well, and each type of iron presence requires a different kind of treatment.

Lead

While this metal is mostly found in older plumbing systems, it can be found in brand new wells too. Lead is a dangerous metal that is, unfortunately, one of the most commonly found metals. The fact that lead is a relatively common occurrence makes detecting it especially important. Lead is dangerous to everybody, but children are at the most risk of lead poisoning. Lead is a cumulative poison, it builds up over time. The accumulation eventually causes health impacts. Lead is in many of the older solders used to seal water fixtures. Additionally, some older pipes are also made of lead. Even brass fixtures can release lead into the water.

Lead rarely occurs naturally in water systems. It is a tasteless, odorless, and colorless metal when it dissolves in water. We recommend testing your water for lead presence if your equipment is 20 years old or older.

Heavy Metals

A broad category of dense metals that can leach in from service lines, refineries, factories, and natural deposits contains metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, and many more. These metals typically arrive through the movement of the groundwater from other sources and are part of the reason wells should be built uphill of any potential contamination or runoff sources. Heavy metals all have various unique health effects, but they tend to cause chronic blood toxicity, liver, kidney, and intestinal damage and can sometimes lead to cancer.

What Can I Do?

How do you know if there is metal is in your well? As with detecting any contaminant, the best way to be sure is to test your well with a locally provided water testing kit or have your well tested by a professional. We usually recommend testing once per year. However, testing any time the quality of your water changes or your property experiences a standing water event is a good idea. Early detection can prevent health consequences and improve the longevity of your well. Filtration, water softening, and reverse osmosis are also methods that reduce metal content in drinking water.