Well water -options to resolve sodium, iron, radon #277528 - Ask Extension


Well water -options to resolve sodium, iron, radon #277528

Asked September 11, 2015, 6:33 PM EDT

Hello, and thank you in advance for any assistance.

 We are looking to purchase a home that was built in the 70's. It has well water and the test came back with some "high" levels. We are in MA.
 1st, the home is vacant and we only ran the water on the outside hose for about 2 hours, and 20 minutes on the kitchen sink before the test water was taken.

 High values:
Sodium 102.25 mg/L. Above 20.0 mg/L is MA guideline, 250.0 mg/L EPA
Iron. .65mg/L. Guideline is .3
pH is 6.30 SU. 6.5-8.5 norm range
TDS 719.4 mg/L. Above 500 is high
Chloride 255.33 mg/L. Guide 250
Hardness 206.3 mg/L.  (Means very hard)
Radon 13180. Guide is 10,000 -

So the seller got a quote to remediate the radon with a venting method for $4500 -

Our agent got a quote for a 1.5 cubic foot water softener, 1.5 cubic foot righ impression plus neutralizer, and a reverse osmosis filter on the kitchen sink only for $5400

- we have been told by 2 separate well companies to do a video inspection of the pipe to see if there is a casing leak. As the numbers for sodium, iron and chloride above all scream "ground water is getting into the well". (Other than radon). The repair would be about $4500 to fix.

 The seller is asking which repair we want and we just don't know. He says their water was just fine but we have found other items in the house that he never knew of that strike me as strange. So I cannot trust that the water was always good. But I have not seen major orange stains in sinks, washing machine or showers. The area has public sewer, and local streams and reservoirs have all tested fine. No manufacturing nearby. No farms within 2 miles.

 So a lot of questions, but mainly - can the radon test give a very high number is the home is vacant and the well has not been really stirred? We do not want to filter the radon, that is for sure, so the vented option would work for us.

As I understand it, The water softener will only cleanse the inside water, what about planting gardens and landscaping? Won't the sodium levels and other items kill the plants? I have plans for a gorgeous English garden, I need good water, I think.

 The home is 1/4 mile from a major highway and off a busy road, definitely high amounts of de-icer and tons of salt put down the last two years around us, record snowfalls.

 We think we should look for a crack/leak and repair that, then retest the water. But there is no time. We just want the well to be more pure and not have to install all these other purification options.
 We do fill glasses and drink out of bathroom taps, we just do.
 And our daughter is 3, and we have dogs.
 I want to be able to drink out of a garden hose if I want :-)

Which is another thing, would the average person really be able to taste all these high levels anyway? Any and all advice and comments are appreciated, we are really in a bind with a lack of knowledge.

Worcester County Massachusetts

Expert Response

Make sure the well casing is not leaking as suggested by a well-driller. Take another sample at the well after running the water long enough to empty any storage tank. You need an accurate reading of what is in the ground water. Include tests for coliform bacteria and nitrate, good indicators of surface water contamination. Tests taken through the plumbing may give inaccurate readings for elements like iron that can come from erosion or gradual deposition within the piping. If your well is a water table well, contamination can occur nearby. If the well is within a confined aquifer, contamination generally comes from the recharge zone. If there is no staining of household fixtures, iron is not likely a problem at a pH of 6.30. Radon is your primary health issue and can be dealt with using venting as suggested. Your next primary health issue is the high sodium and chloride, which may be coming from use of road salt in the recharge zone. If an additional test, after ensuring the well casing is not leaking, shows similar results, here are my recommendations. Do not purchase a water softener, that will just add additional sodium and chloride to the water, which should be removed for drinking and for irrigation of plants. Purchasing a treatment device like reverse osmosis to lower salts could make the water safer to drink, but you will not likely be able to taste the salts in the water at these levels. As for using the water in a garden, many plants are moderately sensitive to chloride levels above 150 mg/L, especially with spray irrigation, and your water has over 250 mg/L of chloride. If you use soil applied irrigation, most leaf burning will be eliminated because rainfall will leach the sodium and chloride from the surface soil. My primary recommendation is to connect to a public water system if practical, rather than spending money on treatment devices which you may not need or may only provide a temporary fix. If yor are interested, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System has numerous questions and answers on drinking water and other issues at http://www.aces.edu/natural-resources/water-resources/faq/index.php. Hope this helps.

James Hairston Replied September 20, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

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