There are several major sources of groundwater contamination, almost all of them directly related to increased residential and commercial development. Evidence of contamination and corrective measures vary according to source.
Household Chemicals. You can detect the presence of household chemicals by testing your well-water. Try to reduce contamination by using fewer hazardous products. If you do use them, make sure to properly store and dispose them. Learn how to safely dispose of toxic household waste here.
De-Icing Salts. Evidence of salt contamination is a salty taste in the well water and high chloride levels found by testing. Storing these salts properly, minimizing their use, and finding salt-free alternatives will reduce contamination. Tips for using less salt with links to handy blogs and articles here.
Garden Fertilizers and Pesticides. Evidence of fertilizer and pesticide contamination is best determined by well-water testing. However, the ill effects exhibited by animals drinking from nearby wells, springs, or surface waters and by the aquatic life in those waters, as well as plants watered from those sources, are all evidence of contamination. Carefully following label instructions and using non-toxic alternatives are the best corrective measures. If you have a yard, here are some handy tips for lawncare and landscaping.
Industrial Sources. There are many industrial by-products that seep into the ground. Examples include the 1.4-Dioxane plume and the MichCon DTE Broadway site in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s Department of Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) has an Environmental Mapper tool where you can see details of identified sites. When opening the map, select the Brownfield layer then “Details” at the top of the map. For general information from EGLE on contamination issues, go here.
Synthetic and Natural Sources
Wells. Underground wells are potential pathways for bacterial and other contaminants entering the groundwater. Well-water turbidity is evidence of contamination and proper testing will reveal high levels of bacteria. Corrective measures include a watertight well cover, a tight well casing, and tight plumbing connections. Please seal any abandoned wells.
Septic Systems. Contamination is evident when wastewater appears above ground. Well-water testing will detect excessive bacteria and chemicals. Corrective measures include proper installation, annual (if a garbage disposal is used) or bi-annual cleaning, and not disposing household chemicals into the system. More about bacterial contamination here. How to maintain your septic system information can be found here.
Natural Substances. Evidence of contamination from natural substances such as sulphur and iron is found in the bad taste or odor of the well water, and stains on water fixtures. Well water testing will detect unacceptable levels of these substances. Water treatment devices will alleviate this problem. Also, if feasible, you should avoid drawing water from areas where natural groundwater problems exist, and/or change over to a public water supply. To find out where your drinking water comes from, check out our drinking water map.