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Question DetailsAsked on 5/15/2011

should I retest well water with total coliform bacteria?

well water tested for total coliform bacteria but not for e-coli. they suggested putting in filtration system. this is from a home inspection on house might be buying. should i do a retest, hire someone to figure out how its getting in water, or what? Not sure how to use this info to counter bid on house. Any info or experiences others have had with wells would be helpful. I have 5 more days before I must counter bid based on inspection.

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10 Answers

0
Votes

Not sure what you mean by "tested for total coliform." Do you mean it tested positive or negative, or do you mean that the testing procedure was only done for total coliform and not for e.coli? I do know that coliform bacteria (including e.coli) in water are serious issues. Here is a link to the EPA website on this issue, which might prove helpful:

http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:mg7ZWoz4YIkJ:www.epa.gov/safewater/ecoli.h
tml+%22total+coliform%22+%22e.coli%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us
.

When we were house-hunting recently we looked at several houses that were on wells. I did some research at that time and ended up concluding that we were not going to get a house with a well, because of all the possible issues. Off hand I would say that the presence of any coliform bacteria in well water might indicate contamination from a septic field.



Answered 7 years ago by Commonsense

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I, too, would be very wary of purchasing a home with a well...other than for your sprinkler system. In a nearby neighborhood, many of the homes with wells are being required to attach to city water because of health concerns that have been ongoing. This is being done at great expense to both the homeowner and to the Village. Just a couple of years ago, they discovered that a dry cleaning establishment in the area had some sort of "leak" into the ground water which ended up in some of the wells.

Answered 7 years ago by michelemabelle

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total coliform tested present and e-coli tested absent. I'm not sure why they didn't test for other fecal coliform. Some research indicated some total coliform can be natural and if fecal coliform is absent then contamination may be from above ground, from faucet or even from person taking sample if not done right. Found some info on contractors doing repair work to well contaminating it because of laying products on ground before installing. There was work done on (holding tank?) about 2 years ago.

There are other concerns with house too like whether to replace knob and tube wire or not, chimney repair needing done before it becomes a big problem (which all its done since is rain), etc. My problem is I like old homes versus newer so I expect some issues. This is what I am going to have to deal with in my price range. The inspection indicated that my concerns were not as bad as I thought but my worry still is if worst case scenario happens before all issues can be dealt with then I will have more than I can handle. On the other hand, some of my concerns may not come to light and I will have an older home I enjoy living in. The structure of house is in good condition.


Answered 7 years ago by Rubnsure

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Frankly, ANY coliform bacteria found in a well would send me running for the hills. How much coliform bacteria do you want in your drinking water?

On the other side of the water issue, do you have a septic system with leach field or just a cistern? When's the last time it was cleaned out? How old is it? (These things have a lifespan even if they are maintained properly.)

"There are other concerns with house too like whether to replace knob and tube wire. . ." uh, yeah. That has to be replaced. That is just not safe. What does the electrical panel look like, and do you know how many amps are coming to the house? A lot of old houses do not have adequate electrical systems, both in terms of structure (knob and tube) or supply.

We all like old houses. My husband and I looked at a few which had been extensively redone, but even so there were going to be some issues sooner or later, and they were issues we didn't feel like dealing with or paying someone masses of money to deal with. Old houses simply were not built for today's life and the way they were built would not satisfy code anywhere in the country today. There's a reason for code. We concluded that while we like to look at old houses, we did not want to live in one.

You say "the structure of house is in good condition," but if the well is polluted, the wiring is not acceptable and the chimney has a problem (and these are the things you already know about) then how is the structure in good condition?

Answered 7 years ago by Commonsense

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Is it too late to get a "clean" sample of the water and have it tested by an independent lab? Is your 5 day timeframe, calendar or 5 M-F business days? July 4 is a legal holiday but some independents may work.. Determing where the ground water originates may help you decide.

I too prefer older homes and plan to relocate soon, but the electrical, plumbing. and ground water source is iffy.. best of luck!

Answered 7 years ago by tessa89

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[quote user="Commonsense"]Frankly, ANY coliform bacteria found in a well would send me running for the hills. How much coliform bacteria do you want in your drinking water? On the other side of the water issue, do you have a septic system with leach field or just a cistern? When's the last time it was cleaned out? How old is it? (These things have a lifespan even if they are maintained properly.) "There are other concerns with house too like whether to replace knob and tube wire. . ." uh, yeah. That has to be replaced. That is just not safe. What does the electrical panel look like, and do you know how many amps are coming to the house? A lot of old houses do not have adequate electrical systems, both in terms of structure (knob and tube) or supply. We all like old houses. My husband and I looked at a few which had been extensively redone, but even so there were going to be some issues sooner or later, and they were issues we didn't feel like dealing with or paying someone masses of money to deal with. Old houses simply were not built for today's life and the way they were built would not satisfy code anywhere in the country today. There's a reason for code. We concluded that while we like to look at old houses, we did not want to live in one. You say "the structure of house is in good condition," but if the well is polluted, the wiring is not acceptable and the chimney has a problem (and these are the things you already know about) then how is the structure in good condition? [/quote]


I realize the timeframe where this information was needed is past but as others may still read these posts, I feel compelled to debunk some misinformation provided here.

First off, for information about Coliform bacteria (to be differentiated from E. Coli) I suggest looking here;

http://www.wellowner.org/awaterqualit...

While most coliforms are not pathogens, they serve as indicators of the microbial quality of water. Public health officials have tested for total coliform bacteria and fecal coliform bacteria for most of this century as a way of checking the quality of water.Pathogens – the bacteria, protozoa, and viruses that make people sick – can be rare and difficult to detect even if they are present in the water. Total coliforms are indicators and are more common and easy to grow. Testing for them provides a margin of safety. Pathogens may not be present if coliforms are, but it would be wise to look for problems just in case.Total coliforms are mostly natural residents of soil and water. Fecal coliforms are those that are usually found in the fecal material of animals. Their presence usually means that the water may be contaminated by sewage effluent. Finding the source of the problem and correcting it is very important.

In well water testing E. Coli is not checked for unless Total Coliform Bacteria come out at a certain level. Sources for Total Coliform may be numerous, relatively harmless and easy to fix. It may be a simple as the seal where the main water pipe exits the well casing underground on it's way to the house needing to be replaced as it may be allowing surface ground water into the well casing. - In any case a simple UV light in the water line will typically kill any bacteria.

Now, on to my favorite...

"like whether to replace knob and tube wire. . ." uh, yeah. That has to be replaced."

Commonsense, I'm not taking a shot at you but... would you please state your level of electrical expertise?

I ask this because I think you have been the recipient of some misinformation. - Properly wired Knob & Tube wiring has no inherent defects that make it dangerous in any way. The only danger that comes from Knob & Tube wiring is improper initial installation (rare), improper modifications by unqualified persons and improper use by uninformed home owners. The main issue with K&T wiring is that the circuits served by it can not be grounded as there is no grounding conductor in the installed wire, only a hot wire and Neutral. For modern use, anyone installing a 3 prong receptacle on a K&T circuit or using one of those 3 prong to 2 adaptors will wind up with an appliance that requires a ground (has a 3 prong plug) not being grounded. Even this is only a potential danger that could go for decades without ever being realized as the ground is only there to handle an emergency that might never happen. Many of our modern appliances such as lamps, alarm clocks, coffee makers and such have only two prong plugs and do not require an equipment ground... So long as the receptacle is properly polarized, there is no danger of any kind using these appliances in a K&T circuit. Often modern circuits with 3 prong grounded receptacles are added along side the existing K&T to provide for appliances that require a ground. Other modifications done by inexperienced home owners and contractors that could make K&T dangerous would be things like insulating wall cavities that have K&T circuit wire (causing excess heat build up) and splicing new wire to K&T wire improperly and potentially overloading the circuits.The biggest issue I find with K&T wire these days is the False stigma attached to it affecting the value of the home & the recent practice of insurance companies that are growing too fast using it as a way to "throttle" the intake of new policies (refusing to right new policies on homes with K&T)

As a Home Inspector & contractor with decades of electrical expertise I explain the aforementioned facts & recommend the K&T circuits be checked by a Licensed Electrician for improper modifications and that all receptacles are properly polarized two prong outlets

"We concluded that while we like to look at old houses, we did not want to live in one. "

The wood used in new housing today will rot out at a rate approx 500x faster then the wood in the old houses and having been built with nothing but production speed & profit margins in mind it is not likely any of todays McMansions will still be standing in 150 years. Give me the charm & character of an old house anytime...

Answered 7 years ago by NJ Home Inspector

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I personally (as in my personal opinion, which is what this board is about) would run from a house with a well, especially one that tested positive for ANY coliform bacteria. Oddly enough I don't feel a need to defend that position. [:^)]

". . . .would you please state your level of electrical expertise. . ." Sure. I know how electricity works in the house and I can wire up ceiling fixtures, receptacles, etc. How much electrical expertise do I have to have to know that knob and tube wire is not okay? You say yourself it cannot be grounded. I don't want any circuits in my house that can't be grounded.

"it is not likely any of todays McMansions will still be standing in 150 years. . ." McMansions are horrible. I wouldn't live in one of those either. But I won't be standing myself in 150 years.

Some old houses were built well and have been well maintained. Even so, they have more issues than I would personally care to take on at this point in my life. Other old houses were not built well and have not been taken care of, and horrific things have been done to compromise their structure, function and safety. IMO all of them are uncomfortable and impractical. At the same time there are some new houses out there that should never pass any inspection, while others are built fairly well. At least most of the new houses are up to code, and the spaces are configured for today's life by and large.

I guess the charm of the old house wore off for me when we lived in England. That thatched cottage that looks so lovely from the outside is in reality a cramped, damp, warren of tiny rooms and twisty stairs. Save it for the postcards and calendars.


Answered 7 years ago by Commonsense

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Shame posters strayed so far from the WELL WATER topic, but here goes:

NJ inspector, thanks for your thoughtful & informative post. Although few of us have lived or owned homes in another country, not everyone in the US wants "charm", but I too prefer older homes because of the better quality wood products used to construct them. It amazes me that cement slab floors have become the norm & the savvy buying public hasn't revolted.

Answered 7 years ago by tessa89

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" It amazes me that cement slab floors have become the norm & the savvy buying public hasn't revolted."

Are they the norm in California? They aren't the norm in most of the country. And where they are common it's for a reason, that being that cement is the cheapest, fastest way to construct a strong waterproof foundation on certain types of soil.

I have no idea why you and others think the wood in older homes was of better quality across the board. Certainly some of it was better quality simply because early timber framers tended to use larger timbers than we do today, and the pine we use today is only marginally more dense than balsa wood. Then again, wood sills or posts were often laid directly on soil, and we all know why that's a bad idea. When we were house-hunting and we looked at several very old houses (over 100 years) in a high price range - I say that to show they were not dumps - we found so many problems with cellars with dirt floor that we became disheartened very quickly. Our former house had been constructed in 1963, which I guess qualifies it for "older," and in some ways it was built better, but in other ways it was woefully lacking. There were no vapor barriers between the outside of the house and the slope it was built into, and water leaked in eventually. Stucco technology was not very good then, and stucco is notorious for not letting you know there's trouble until large chunks fall off suddenly. Poor insulation, single-pane windows, inadequate electrical circuits. . . .these are all par for the course with any house that could be called "old."

Are we supposed to stay on the original topic? Are there penalties for straying? [:)] Will it go on our permanent records?

Answered 7 years ago by Commonsense

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IMHO maintaining a MEMEMBER'S topic is common courtesy

I grew up drinking unfiltered well water ... of course that was years + half a century ago [6].

If anyone would like to debate specifics, compare regional experiences, or ask specific quesitons, I'm sure the A-L folk are willing to forward inquiries / If I'm out of line they will let me know & it will be a first

Answered 7 years ago by tessa89




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