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Thread: Vacant home well issue

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member mikeazo's Avatar
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    Default Vacant home well issue

    My offer was accepted on a home earlier this week. The inspectors were out today for the home inspection. I had them do a quantity and quality test on the well. They ran water from a hose outside for about an hour, then filled up a bucket with the outside water. The water was a light brown color. Inside the home, the water was clear as can be. There is a whole house filter, so I'm assuming that is why the inside water looked so good. The home has been vacant for 6 to 8 months. Could this be the cause of the light brown water? Is that color water on the outside a concern? I'm still waiting for the results of the bacteria test, but I'm guessing bacteria is not causing the color. I forgot to stick my hand in the bucket to see if it was sand or some other sediment. Could it be iron buildup since the well has hardly been used for so long? I've put as much info below as I could about wells in the neighborhood. Still waiting on a well log from the state department of natural resources though, so the best I can give right now is neighborhood information.

    Of the well logs I've seen for the neighborhood, the wells are between 40 and 50 feet. One log for a well just up the street said the aquifer type is gravel, another further up the street said sand and gravel. One was clay on top for 22 feet, then dry gravel for 8 feet, then clay for 6 feet, then gravel the rest of the way down. The other says clay for 10 feet then sand & gravel the rest of the way. Static water level is just over 20 feet on both.

    That is the best I can do for now. Hopefully I can get access to the well log for this home soon. Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    DIY Senior Member Chad Schloss's Avatar
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    40 or 50 ft is the minimum in my area in mid michigan. we had a 30ft well with a static level of 20. hard water, iron bacteria, sand. etc. we eventually bit the bullet and had a new deep well drilled at a depth of like 200 or 300ft, i can't remember. they called it a rock well. water was very clear, very clean. before installing this new well, we had a softener and an iron filter, and two of those paper and carbon pre filters installed before this stuff and the water was still nasty. make sure to have your water tested for coliform, nitrates, iron bacteria, lead, arsenic, etc. I think these are all mandated, but if not make sure. they may have to chlorinate the well to clean it up, too. we did that fairly often. we had to pour bleach down the well, let it sit, then run it all night. the water still smelled the next few days and i made sure not to drink it. this is just my opinion, as a homeowner. i am not a plumber or water quality expert.

  3. #3
    Porky Cutter,MGWC Porky's Avatar
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    I don't see a real problem unless the brown color continues. Anytime a well sets for some time they may pump discolored water for a time. When it's clear I would chlorinate the well with 1 gallon of chlorine mixed with 5 gallons of water. This may be a problem if it's a 1-1/4" or 2" cased well. Then turn on the pump and pump each house faucet until you smell chlorine then let them set for 24 hours. Then pump each faucet until you no longer smell the chlorine. Once this is done have a "Qualified" person to take a sample and immediately take the sample to a qualified laboratory for testing for coliform bacteria. It may or may not come back as safe to drink. If it doesn't pass, rechlorinate the well and repeate the process again. Most ground water is safe. It becomes unsafe when tampered with.
    Porky Cutter, MGWC
    (Master Ground Water Consultant)

  4. #4
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    No inspector tests thru a mouldy hose. Maybe a house mounted bib. They should use the kitchen faucet after long run time.

    If you chlorinate Porky left out the "recirculate water thru the well cap" part, which I think very important.

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member mikeazo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ballvalve View Post
    No inspector tests thru a mouldy hose. Maybe a house mounted bib. They should use the kitchen faucet after long run time.

    If you chlorinate Porky left out the "recirculate water thru the well cap" part, which I think very important.
    Not sure where the "mouldy hose" part came in.

    The inspector ran the outdoor hose for about an hour then filled up a bucket to see what the water looked like. For the quality test, he took a sample from the kitchen sink I believe.

    Quote Originally Posted by Porky
    I don't see a real problem unless the brown color continues.
    The problem was that even after running the hose for an hour, the water was still brown. Maybe that wasn't long enough though to fix the problem. The house had been sitting vacant for a while.

    Anyways, I should be getting the quality (i.e., bacteria test) results back on Monday. I'll update then. Then I'll probably have to talk to a company that works with wells to get an estimate so I can tell the current owner and have them fix it.

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    In the Trades Texas Wellman's Avatar
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    Inspectors don't know squat about water wells. My money is on letting the well run for 5 minutes max before claiming the "brown water".

    Also if he did not flame the outlet and follow the procedures I doubt it will pass.

  7. #7
    DIY Junior Member mikeazo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Texas Wellman View Post
    Inspectors don't know squat about water wells. My money is on letting the well run for 5 minutes max before claiming the "brown water".

    Also if he did not flame the outlet and follow the procedures I doubt it will pass.
    You probably just lost your money then because I was there the whole time and watched while the water ran for an hour. Then I watched as he filled the bucket up and saw the brown water for myself.

    I'm curious as to what you mean by "flame the outlet". I've tried to find out what that means online, but couldn't find anything. Care to elaborate?

  8. #8
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    My house sat empty for 2 years with no one in it. We chlorinated and pumped the well hours with little change. It took over a month of regular use before it looked pretty good. A couple of months later I figured out that the bottom of the pressure tank was full of iron sludge, as was the water heater.

    Before a water sample is taken for analysis, the water should be run for a minute or two and then turned off and the spigot sterilized with a flame (I use a propane torch) before the sample is taken. This spigot is considered contaminated until it has been sterilized and this contamination can effect the test results.

  9. #9
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeazo View Post
    ... They ran water from a hose outside for about an hour, then filled up a bucket with the outside water. The water was a light brown color. Inside the home, the water was clear as can be. There is a whole house filter, so I'm assuming that is why the inside water looked so good.
    That is at least possible. I used to have a well with a lot of iron, and there was definitely a difference between the water that came directly from the well and the water that had been filtered.

  10. #10
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    You dont test through a hose. Hoses breed all sorts of irremoveable bacteria, half full in the sun. Kitchen, with a chlorine dip.

  11. #11
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    I've read and reread the OP and it is not clear where or how the test sample was taken and to what end. There is also mention of a whole house filter but no explanation of it.

    I have a birm type iron filter that filters the "whole house" but not one of the outside hose bibs, so in my case, drawing from an unfiltered outside hose bib could result in water with a slight brown tint. Other outside bibs are plumbed after the iron filter and two of them are plumbed after the softener to supply hot and cold filtered soft water.

    As for drawing a water sample for testing, it would depend what I'm testing for. A sample drawn from the kitchen faucet would be of filtered and softened water so would not be representative of the water straight from the well. In my case, the one outside unfiltered bib, suitably flamed with no hose attached still would not provide a proper representation of the well water since it has been aerated by my micronizer and the iron turned to iron oxide, skewing the test. For a true test for iron, I have to draw a sample before the micronizer.

    A home inspector that is not a qualified ground water consultant might not provide a fair report nor a proper test.

  12. #12
    DIY Junior Member mikeazo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LLigetfa View Post
    I've read and reread the OP and it is not clear where or how the test sample was taken and to what end. There is also mention of a whole house filter but no explanation of it.

    I have a birm type iron filter that filters the "whole house" but not one of the outside hose bibs, so in my case, drawing from an unfiltered outside hose bib could result in water with a slight brown tint. Other outside bibs are plumbed after the iron filter and two of them are plumbed after the softener to supply hot and cold filtered soft water.

    As for drawing a water sample for testing, it would depend what I'm testing for. A sample drawn from the kitchen faucet would be of filtered and softened water so would not be representative of the water straight from the well. In my case, the one outside unfiltered bib, suitably flamed with no hose attached still would not provide a proper representation of the well water since it has been aerated by my micronizer and the iron turned to iron oxide, skewing the test. For a true test for iron, I have to draw a sample before the micronizer.

    A home inspector that is not a qualified ground water consultant might not provide a fair report nor a proper test.
    Not sure why there is so much confusion, I thought I was pretty clear. The inspectors did 2 tests. One to measure quantity, one to measure quality. To test quantity, they turned on an outside bib and left it running to see how many gallons per min they could get (quantity). They said that was around 5 to 7 gpm. Then to test quality, they took a sample from the kitchen sink. I didn't see them flame/sanitize the outlet, but that doesn't mean they didn't. Still waiting on the results of the quality test.

    The brown water was coming out of the bib and was still brown after an hour.

    Since I don't own the house, I don't know much about the filter or hookups. There were a few brand new filters there labeled "OmniFilter". Apart from that, I don't know much else about the filter. I'm assuming that the inside water is running through that filter and that the outside water is not. My assumption is based on the fact that the indoor water was crystal clear all the time (even when the bib water was brown). The water in the bucket was dark enough that I couldn't see the bottom of the bucket (there were probably 3 gallons in the bucket).

    How's that explanation? Hopefully better, and sorry for the confusion. If you have specific questions, please ask, and thanks all for all the help.

  13. #13
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeazo View Post
    They ran water from a hose outside for about an hour, then filled up a bucket with the outside water.
    One might infer from that statement that there was a hose involved.

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeazo View Post
    Not sure why there is so much confusion, I thought I was pretty clear. The inspectors did 2 tests. One to measure quantity, one to measure quality. To test quantity, they turned on an outside bib and left it running to see how many gallons per min they could get (quantity). They said that was around 5 to 7 gpm. Then to test quality, they took a sample from the kitchen sink.
    There was no mention in your first post where the quality sample was taken from and what quality metric you are looking for. If quality is to include hardness, iron, turbidity, etc., the test should be done at the wellhead.

    The quantity test is somewhat dubious and assures only a minimum GPM rate and total volume of 300 - 420 gallons. The GPM measured was what the bib and or attached hose can produce. The pump/well could probably produce much more. A thorough test would also measure the static level in the well before and after continuous pumping.

  14. #14
    DIY Junior Member mikeazo's Avatar
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    All, thanks for all the help. And sorry about the confusing first post. Hopefully things are clearer now (no pun intended).

    Anyways, got some pictures today. These are from the inspection.

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  15. #15
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    At this point, it really does not matter what the water looks like. The only thing that matters is what the water test results are. If the well has been sitting for a long time the water will not be clear. It is pretty common that a well will need to be run for days to clear well. If the coliform test is bad, then you have a problem.

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