My Private Well Has Red, Black, or Purple Water
Iron, Manganese, Sulfur, Nuisance Bacteria, Sulfide Compounds
Water Testing Services and Test Kits

 

Water Research Center
Online Education, Professional Training

A Common Water Problems
in Northeast Pennsylvania
Case Studies and Some Special Cases Related To Natural Gas Development with Well Water

by:
Mr. Brian Oram, PG
B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.

Drink Clean Water - Get the Waters Tested !
Red, Black, Green, Bluish, Purple, and Brown Water - Just a Few of
the Possible Colors of Drinking Water

Some Case Studies for Private Well Owners Across the United States
Common and Uncommon Well Water Problems - including problems
Caused by Bacteria - Bacterial Causes of Contamination

   

Private Well Owner Survey For United States (New Free Outreach)
New Booklet for Private Well Owners (2012)- Written for PA,
but Great Information for ALL Private Well Owners In the United States.

When you are evaluating a water quality issue, the questions that you should ask are as follows:

1. What was the original quality of the water?  This may be called the baseline test.
2. What actions have occurred near or at the well or within the region that could have contributed?
3. What is the current quality of the water?
4. What are the changes?

Here are just a few examples:

Case Study # 1
Discolored Water, Staining, Odors (Primarily Hotwater)
Metallic Taste / Metallic Odor

Water Issues
1. Water became intermittently discolored.
2. Hot water was more discolored then cold water.
3. Hot water had a slight odor.

Evaluation/ Inspection
1. Water Quality Testing- No change in the water quality when the lines were flushed, but the first flush of the hot water line had a higher iron and manganese content, high standard plate count, and nuisance level slime and iron bacteria.

2. Activities in the area - gas drilling, quarry, excavation, septic systems, and agricultural runoff.

Action
1. Drained and Purged Hotwater Heater.
2. Pasteurized the heating unit.
3. Check anode in hotwater heater
4. Flushed the System

Result
1. Water Quality Returned to Normal, except dissolved manganese was still elevated above secondary drinking water standards.
2. Well yield and specific capacity increased.
3. Water Treatment at least filtration may be advisable.

Note:  The information under this case is actually a summary of observations for a
number of similar cases that we have conducted over the past 23 years.
 

Case Study 2
Metallic Taste and Odor, Water Staining (Brown to Black)
and Black Sediment or Precipitate- Problems Caused by a Water Bacteria

Water Contamination Study of a Private Well

Clear Water Had a Metallic Taste and Left some Reddish to Brown Staining - The water also had small particles of black particles in the toilet reserve tank.

1. The water was tested and the level of dissolved iron and manganese were above the secondary drinking water standards
2. Added Chlorine to the water- the iron and manganese oxidized
3. Activities in the area - gas drilling, quarry, excavation, septic systems, and agricultural runoff.

Evaluation/ Inspection

1. Documented well construction and water level.  Checked the
general water quality found:
Low ORP - reducing conditions
High Nuisance Bacteria, especially slime bacteria
Elevated Dissolved Iron and Manganese

Action
Purged well an shock disinfected and circulated well  water- twice.  During the
second attempt the ORP (Oxidation Reduction Potential) was
increased to over 800 mv (Highly oxidizing).

Result
Improved yield of the well, water taste improved, and levels of iron and manganese was reduce, but manganese was still above the secondary drinking
water standard - water was clear.



Staining in Dishwasher and Clothes Washed
Treated using a Citric Acid Based Detergents and Cleaners.

Note:  The information under this case is actually a summary of observations for a
number of similar cases that we have conducted over the past 23 years.

Water Treatment Systems

Greensand Filtration System
Iron / Sulfide Treatment System
Under the Counter and Counter Top Filtration Systems


Case Study 3
Problems - Gas Bubbles, Brown to Black Water, Intermittent Odors
and Bacteria (Specific Case) in Well Water.



Water Issues
1. Water became intermittently discolored- black and brown- some gas.
2. Water had a slight odor.
3. Water had total coliform, fecal coliform, and very high nuisance bacterial counts.
4. Some evidence of intermittent iron and manganese and some suspended materials.
5. Water had elevated levels of slime and iron bacteria.


Evaluation/ Inspection

1. Documented well construction and water level. 
2. The static water level was just below the base of the PVC casing.
3. There was grass clippings, spider webs and egg masses under well cap.  There were also other insects and earwigs under well cap.
4. Slime bacteria and Iron Bacteria High.
5. Methane not detectable.
6. Activities in the area - gas drilling, urban landscapes, pipeline work, excavations, stormwater systems, urban runoff, fertilizers, and road salting.

Action
1. Shock disinfected the well with a residual of 50 ppm - chlorine.  Result - Bacterial Contamination, i.e., E. coli.  went up!  Cause - we washed down the debris that was on the casing into the well.
2. Shock disinfected the well at 100 ppm with more recirculation and checking chlorine levels. Result - Total Coliform, E.coli, nuisance bacteria, and standard plate count at low levels.  No iron or manganese problems and no total suspended solids (TSS).
3. Recommendation- add a sanitary well cap. 
4. Well yield and specific capacity increased.
Case Solved !

Case Study 4 (Specific Case)

I Wish The Well Owner Did Baseline Testing
Get Baseline Testing Done NOW Water Well Issues and Water Problems!
(This is a friend and long-term Associate)

Water Issues
1. Lake House that is not regularly used and in most cases the homeowners did not drink the water.
2. No baseline testing other than some historic testing for coliform bacteria and nitrate.
3. The water appeared to change and get a salty taste and there was some gas
bubbles.

4. Well - no drilling log- located in a river valley near a lake - over 400 feet deep.

Evaluation/ Inspection

1. Could not access well to measure LEL (Lower Explosion Limit) in headspace because we were in a natural gas area or measure the static water level for the well.
2. Started purging the well - no gas spouting or water hammer, but the gas in the water began to outgas quickly.
3. Water appeared very clear - other than the out-gassing of some gas very quickly.
4. Well near lake with on-site septic, natural gas development over 2000 feet away, dirt roads, and not urban runoff or salt storage.
5. I had been to this house before, but I never drank the water - Again - this is a house at the lake - drinking water and measuring water quality is not the primary activity.

Action

1. Collected a water sample and measured water quality in the field and sent a sample to the laboratory.
2. Results:
Methane - 17.3 mg/L (above the action level of 2 mg/L)
Ethane- < 0.01 mg/L
Propane- < 0.02 mg/L
Barium - 3.3 mg/L (Elevated)
Strontium - 1.8 mg/L
T. Hardness - 61 mg/L
Total Dissolved Solids - 760 mg/L (Elevated)
Chloride - 390 mg/L (Elevated)
Sodium - 264 mg/L (Salty Taste)
Nitrate- < 0.5 mg/L (OK)

pH 7.8 mg/L
3. Findings - The well appears to be impacted by saline water. 
4. Homeowner First Question - Was this caused by Marcellus Shale Drilling ?

Problems
1. No Baseline Data or even historic testing data other than total coliform and nitrate.
2. No gas development within 2500 feet

Recommendation
1.
Under Oil and Gas Law- Section 78.89 – “When an operator or owner is notified of or otherwise made aware of a POTENTIAL natural gas migration incident, the PADEP may require the operator to conduct an investigation.

Point - If the homeowner spent $ 300.00 on baseline testing- we could have provided an answer.  The POINT - BASELINE TESTING IS NEEDED NOW !

 

Gas Bubbles Dissipate in Less then 1 minute
LEL over the Top of a Water Bottle - 30% LEL

SEE OUR Review of the Data
From Dimock, PA

 

 

Back to Case Study 5 through 10

If you have a case that you want us to evaluate- contact us using the following portals and links.
Contribute Data to the
Pennsylvania Groundwater Database

Well by Well Review for Dimock, PA

Local Groundwater Group - Carbon County, PA

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National Drillers Training Courses
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and Groundwater Basics 

Water Well Design (other training provider)

*****************************************

For More information about the Water Research Center, 
please contact:

 Attn: Mr. Brian Oram, Professional Geologist (PG)
Water Research Center
B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.
15 Hillcrest Drive
Dallas, PA 18612

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