Wells must be built well to avoid contamination

Proper drilling, grouting and lining are essential

Farmers preparing for a Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme audit must test their water for microbiological contamination, if a private water supply is used for dairy washing (of milking contact surfaces).

Tests must show Enterococci and E coli must be absent.

Where the water supply is derived from wells, well-heads must be sealed, and the surrounding area maintained to prevent water contamination.

The most common problem associated with private wells is poor well construction, according to the latest Environmental Protection Agency information for householders on private wells.

It is very important that the well is drilled properly, grouted and lined, to make sure that polluting matters cannot get into the well from the ground surface or from shallow groundwater.

Where can I get my water tested?

Your local authority Environment Section or the HSE Environmental Health Officer will be able to advise on a laboratory. Or, you can get the name of a suitable private laboratory from Golden Pages.

What should I get it tested for?

It is most important to get your water tested for E coli and coliform bacteria. The need for other tests depends on the location of your well and appearance of your water.

For example, if your well is in an agricultural area, you may need to get it tested for nitrate, or if it is slightly discoloured, you may want to get it tested for iron and manganese. When making arrangements with the laboratory, you should describe any concerns you have about your well water, and they will be able to advise on what specific tests should be carried out.

It is recommended that you test your well water at least once a year for microbiological contamination and every three years for chemical contamination.

I think my well is being contaminated by nearby activity, what can I do?

Talk to your neighbour about the suspected cause. It may be that your neighbour is unaware of the location of your well or the consequences of their actions. If this fails, you should make your complaint in writing to the relevant local authority or use the EPA “See It, Say It” app to report the incident.

Where can I get information on treatment systems for my well?

The type of treatment suitable for your well depends on the results of testing. You can get a list of suppliers of water treatment systems in the Golden Pages. You should advise any potential suppliers of the results of testing so that they are aware of what treatment is required.

Are there grants available to improve the quality of my well?

Yes. Grants are available from your local authority where improvement works are necessary to address a serious deficiency in the quality of water. The grant can cover the drilling of a new well, rehabilitating an existing well, construction of pumps house and associated works or the provision of treatment. Currently up to 75% of the approved costs (subject to a limit of €2,031.58) is available. Go to your local authority website for more details on the process.

How far away should my well be from my septic tank?

The minimum recommended distance between a water well and a wastewater treatment system, including the percolation area/polishing filter, is 20 metres. However, this may vary, depending on the ground conditions, vulnerability and slope. To find out more, view the Code of Practice: Wastewater Treatment System for Single Houses on the epa.ie website.

How far away should landspreading be from my well?

Landspreading of organic or soiled water (e.g. slurry) is not permitted within 25 m of a private well/spring. Furthermore, areas for storage of farmyard manure, slatted sheds, slurry storage and silage clamps should be at least 50 m from a private well. The farmyard should be 15 m from the private well/spring.

Is it safe to store chemicals (e.g. fertilisers, paints, diesel, pesticides, bleach etc.) near my well?

No. Chemicals should be stored in a safe place away from any wellhead or the contributory zone (catchment) from the water supply, so that accidental spillage will not result in the chemicals getting into your well

My home heating oil or fuel storage tank is near my well, should I be worried?

If the tank is within 30 m of your well, you should make sure any spills or leakages into the well or the surrounding soils will be contained. To do this, you should have a properly constructed bund around the tank. If you have to refill your tank more frequently than normal, this may indicate there is a leak in the tank or pipework. This should be investigated as soon as possible. If you become aware of a spillage report this to your local authority and arrange for your well to be tested.

Continued next week


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