This excerpt discusses common sources of naturally-occurring water well contamination.
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This EPA article (in series by subtopic) helps answer these questions. It gives you general information about drinking water from home wells (also considered private drinking water sources). It describes types of activities in your area that can create threats to your water supply. It also describes problems to look for and offers maintenance suggestions.
[Editing for clarity by DF are marked by brackets or italics] Initial Source: EPA 816-K-02-003 January 2002 Edits, content addition, & web page design
Bacteria, viruses, parasites and other microorganisms are sometimes found in water. Shallow wells - those with water close to ground level - are at most risk. Runoff, or water flowing over the land surface, may pick up these pollutants from wildlife and soils.
This is often the case after flooding. Some of these organisms can cause a variety of illnesses. Symptoms include nausea and diarrhea. These can occur shortly after drinking contaminated water. The effects could be short-term yet severe (similar to food poisoning) or might recur frequently or develop slowly over a long time.
Radionuclides are radioactive elements such as uranium and radium. They may be present in underlying rock and ground water. Radon - a gas that is a natural product of the breakdown of uranium in the soil - can also pose a threat. Radon is most dangerous when inhaled and contributes to lung cancer.
Although soil is the primary source, using household water containing Radon contributes to elevated indoor Radon levels. Radon is less dangerous when consumed in water, but remains a risk to health.
Although high nitrate levels are usually due to human activities (see below), they may be found naturally in ground water. They come from the breakdown of nitrogen compounds in the soil. Flowing ground water picks them up from the soil. Drinking large amounts of nitrates and nitrites is particularly threatening to infants (for example, when mixed in formula).
Underground rocks and soils may contain arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium. However, these contaminants are not often found in household wells at dangerous levels from natural sources.
Fluoride is helpful in dental health, so many water systems add small amounts to drinking water. However, excessive consumption of naturally occurring fluoride can damage bone tissue. High levels of fluoride occur naturally in some areas. It may discolor teeth, but this is not a health risk.
Continue reading at WATER POLLUTION - HUMAN SOURCES or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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