Most home sales at Smith Mountain Lake are contingent upon a few inspections being completed. Typically there is a home inspection, sometimes including a radon inspection. There is almost always a request for the seller to conduct a well and septic inspection. The septic inspection is rarely problematic. Well inspections involve testing a homes well water for bacteria. It’s a “pass/fail” test for the presence of E-Coli or Coliform bacteria. Many homeowners are startled to hear that their well has flunked the test. You can’t really proceed with a sale until you rectify the problem. Since the well test is often done fairly close to the closing date, a failed test can cause a lot of stress.
The solution is simple. You need to have your well shocked and then have the water retested. Shocking a well involves placing chlorine pellets and/or liquid bleach into your well. After a few hours (or more) of the bleach interacting with your water supply, it must then run through each faucet in your home. It can’t be retested until the water is once again free of chlorine. Too high a chlorine level will cause your new test to be rejected. A plumber who knows how to properly shock a well, has a test kit that lets him know when the chlorine level has dissipated enough to retest.
Unless you have researched the process for doing a well shock and feel comfortable doing it yourself, we highly recommend using a plumber, who has done a number of well shocks. There are some things you have to keep in mind: If you have a water softening system in your home, it must be bypassed during the well shock. High concentrations of chlorine entering the system can damage it. It also helps to know how deep your well is, as well as the flow rate. This allows a plumber to calculate how much chlorine to use. In the absence of this information, most plumbers will err on the side of adding more chlorine rather than less. This isn’t a problem, but may mean that it will take longer for the chlorine to dissipate…sometimes 1-3 days.
Obviously, while you have so much chlorine in your well, you can’t drink the water. You probably shouldn’t shower either, if your skin reacts to chlorine. It’s often easier to have an alternative place to stay while your well is being shocked.
Typically, a well shock results in a passing water retest. If it doesn’t, the installation of an ultraviolet light where your water supply enters your home will also kill bacteria. On rare occasions, there might be a problem in the well, that is causing bacteria to be present. A failing well liner in an older well is a good example.
It’s almost impossible to prevent bacteria from entering well water. Animals freely roam and they defecate. Heavy rain can cause seepage of fecal bacteria into groundwater. If you have a well, its a good idea to test your water yearly. Many people shock their well every few years, just as a safety precaution.
If you are interested in learning more details about shocking wells, we recommend Steve Musgrove as a good person to talk to. He’s a local SML plumber we have used multiple times for well shocks, including in our own home. His number is 540.420.7837.