Many US states make it compulsory to get your well water tested after you drill a new well. You are recommended (not required by law) to get your water tested annually. One issue which is common with the majority of well owners is the pH of water. EPA has set the limit of pH for drinking water at 6.5-8.5. All well owners must try to bring their drinking water in this range and make sure that they are not drinking acidic or too much alkaline water.
How to know the pH of Well Water?
pH changes are slow to happen. EPA recommends that a 3-year test must be conducted on well water to check its chemical properties, including the pH, radioactivity, and other contaminants. Once you know the pH of the water, you will be able to treat it effectively. You can use litmus paper to test the pH of the well water. Litmus papers are easily available online and at hardware stores. They are reliable and give accurate results.
In this article, we will discuss the ways you can use to raise the pH of drinking water, some basic terms and concepts about pH, health effects, sources, and how to protect your well.
Symptoms of Low pH
If the copper plumbing shows bluish-green stains, galvanized iron plumbing shows red stains, and you have water system leakages and corrosion problems, you are most probably a victim of acidic water. Sour tasting and slippery water are also symptoms of water with low pH.
Why is Testing for pH of Well Water Important?
pH testing is important for the following reasons.
- Calculate the impact of pH on the plumbing system of your home. Acidic water can lead to corrosion and leach metals from water pipes.
- Understand that acidic water can elevate the level of heavy metals in your water through corrosion from water pipes. The common heavy metals are iron, lead, copper, cadmium, and zinc.
- Make sure that the treatment filters and water softeners in your home are performing effectively and getting water according to their specified pH range.
What is pH?
pH stands for potential of hydrogen in a substance. It tells us about the concentration of hydrogen ions in a substance. Only liquids have a pH value. A pH scale ranges from 0-14. A pH of 0 means a highly acidic substance and a pH of 14 means a highly basic (alkaline) solution. A pH of 7 is neutral. While the acidic nature of water makes it corrosive, alkalinity alters its taste.
Let’s look at some of the examples for different liquids having different pH.
|0||Battery acid, strong hydrofluoric acid|
|1||Hydrochloric acid secreted by the stomach lining|
|2||Lemon juice, gastric acid, vinegar|
|3||Grapefruit, orange juice, soda|
|4||Tomato juice, acid rain|
|5||Soft drinking water, black coffee|
|10||Great Salt Lake, Milk of Magnesia|
|13||Bleaches, oven cleaner|
|14||Liquid drain cleaner|
Relation to Human Body and Health Effects
A human body is a complex machine that has fluids with different levels of pH. Your stomach has a highly acidic environment, as highlighted in the table above. The pH of blood is slightly alkaline and stands at around 7.4. Your body reacts differently to everything you eat and drink. It has the mechanism of handling acidic and basic water. However, when the pH of water is below 6.5, it can leach metals from the well and the pipes. These metals are not good for your health in large amounts.
The little ones at your home are at far greater risk than adults because of heavy metals in water. Continued exposure to acidic water can make your teeth week. A report published by the World Health Organization states that exposure to extremely low pH (below 4) can cause redness and irritation in the eyes. If the pH drops below 2.5, it can cause irreversible damage to epithelium (the thin tissue forming the outer layer of a body’s surface and lining the alimentary canal and other hollow structures).
Similarly, higher pH (alkalinity) above 11 can irritate the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. Water having alkalinity in the range of 10-12.5 has been reported to swell hair fibers and cause gastrointestinal problems.
How to raise the pH in Well Water?
Unlike city water, well water has to be maintained by the well owners. If you are looking for a solution to get rid of acidic well water, you can use the following techniques.
A neutralizing filter can be used to increase the pH of the well water. A neutralizing filter uses calcite, ground limestone, or magnesia media to increase the pH of water. Neutralizing filters are mechanical filters and require frequent backwashing and refilling of the neutralizing material. A neutralizing filter will add some degree of hardness to your water. The level of hardness added depends on the acidity content of water and the amount of the neutralizing medium used.
Hence, it is best to install a neutralizing filter before a water softener. Installing a neutralizing filter will also increase your water softener’s load since it will have to work more to make your water soft. You must test your water for hardness after installing a neutralizing filter.
Based on the test results of hardness, you will have to install a water softener. If the level of hardness is below 120 mg/L, it is acceptable, and you don’t need to worry about it. A calcite filter usually improves the pH of well water between 7 and 8 and adds 30 to 100 ppm hardness in your water. The calcite filters are available in up-flow and down-flow designs.
Capacity: Neutralization is a time taking process. With a standard size neutralizing filter, the incoming feed pressure must not exceed 3 gallons per minute. If your water pressure is higher, look for a large-sized calcite filter.
Maintenance: Just like a water softener, a neutralizing filter also needs regular maintenance. You have to refill the neutralizing material and arrange a drainage system for backwashing.
When the water output is high, a neutralizing solution is used to increase the pH of water. Soda ash is one of the best neutralizing solutions. It is often used in industries or municipal water systems as it is a large scale measure. You can also use it to treat your well water. A mixture of soda ash and chlorine is often used together to increase the pH and disinfect the water at the same time. These filters are commonly known as soda ash feeders. A chlorinator can also be used as a soda ash injector. The best thing about this method is that it won’t add any hardness in water and improve the pH from 4-6 to 7-8.
Capacity: Neutralizing solutions don’t have a limited working capacity. You have to refill the neutralizing solution in the injector, and it will keep on increasing the pH of water passing through it. Once the solution is finished from the injector, it will stop working.
Maintenance: You need to add the neutralizing solution in the injector. The amount of solution used depends upon the acidity of the water and the volume of water treated.
What to do if the Well Water pH is too alkaline?
Though it is very rare, well water pH can also get above 7. If the test results show that your water is basic, you would need an acid injection to lower the pH and bring it around 7. If the pH is around 8 or 8.5, you don’t need to worry as EPA puts this value in the safe limit. For well water with a pH higher than 9, you need to take some action.
Acid injection is a point of entry system. A feed pump injects acetic acid (white vinegar) into the incoming water and brings the pH of water down. You would need to maintain the pump and refill the acid injection liquid periodically. Ensure you handle the acid carefully, keep them out of reach of children, and store them properly. You would also need to test water treated from such a system and install the required filters to make it drinkable and healthy.
Protection of Private Wells
You must take special care of all the activities you do around your water well. Don’t dispose of anything hazardous, chemical substances, mix fertilizers, or any activity which can alter the quality of the water underground. You must also protect your well from surface contamination and runoff water.