Arsenic – Arsenic occurs naturally in the earth's crust. Arsenic in drinking water comes from water traveling through natural rock formations. The water can dissolve arsenic and carry it into underground aquifers, streams, or rivers that may become drinking water supplies.
Long-term exposure to low levels of inorganic arsenic in drinking water is known to cause health problems including:
- Thickening and discoloration of the skin
- Issues with blood vessels, high blood pressure, and heart disease
- Nerve issues including numbness and/or pain.
Nitrate – Nitrate is a form of nitrogen that occurs naturally in the environment as well as introduced from human and animal sources. This is the nutrient most often used for lawn and garden care and crop production to increase productivity. Sources including feedlots, animal enclosures, septic systems, and waste treatment systems are additional sources of nitrogen that are carried in waste. It occurs naturally in the soil in organic matter from decaying plant and animal residues. It is highly soluble and easily moves with water through layers of soil. Unless tested for, nitrate in water is undetectable as it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
While research has been limited, due to the complexity and cost of this type of research, studies have shown a relationship with long-term ingestion of elevated nitrate.
- Increased incidence of certain cancers
- Increased birth defects.
- Private drinking water should be tested annually to monitor changes in nitrate concentration as pregnant women, children, the elderly are found to be the populations most susceptible to nitrate health effects.
Microorganisms – Many bacteria can be found in drinking water; coliform bacteria are one of the most common water contamination problems in private water systems in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. Coliform, E. Coli is found in about 15% of private wells.
Either because of poor construction or poor maintenance for septic systems, homeowners can be the cause of contamination of their own wells. When a well is placed too close to a septic system or a septic system is placed where it can drain into a waterway or groundwater, problems can arise.
There is no maximum acceptable concentration of Coliform or E. Coli in drinking water. If any is detected, you cannot drink the water. This is another contaminate with has no taste and must be tested for.
While most coliform bacteria are not harmful, E coli can make you sick with the following symptoms: (Those with compromised immune systems may suffer more severe effects)
- Upset stomach