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Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Posted by fifidanon (My Page) on
Sat, Sep 9, 06 at 12:05

We need to shock our well, and we have received varying advice as to the best procedure to use.

The quick advice seems to be: "Just dump a gallon of bleach in the well and turn on all the faucets for a while." Sounds pretty simple, but in a thread I started on this topic in "Building a Home" forum a while back, responses seemed to indicate it was a little more involved than that.

It would be so helpful if someone could give us a basic, step-by-step procedure to do this simply and effectively.

Such as, is a gallon of bleach the right choice? Some people mention tablets, some mention chlorine.

How long do we need to run the faucets? In addition to flushing every toilet, spraying through the kitchen sprayer, are there other water lines we are forgetting about?

Are we supposed to run a garden hose from an outside faucet, in order to keep the bleach out of the septic? Then what about flushing the toilets?

When is it safe to drink the water after this procedure? The reason we need to shock the well is we tested positive for total coliform.

We have found ourselves confused with the different advice we have been receiving. Can anyone out there clarify things for us?

Your help is greatly appreciated!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

There are only two things one needs to accomplish most anything. The knowledge and the tools.

You lack the knowledge (no disrespect intended) so you should bring in a water treatment pro that specializes in wells rather than soliciting advice from strangers with keyboards.

Your water quality and not screwing up your well and associated equipment is so important it will be worth the money to bring in a pro. They can school you as to routine well maintainence and potential problems for the future.

As always ... free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

justalurker,

We have no trouble acknowledging our lack of knowledge and expertise in this endeavor. We ended up back on the keyboard precisely because we can't seem to get a plumber to take our request seriously. We have been trying for a couple of weeks to get any plumber to make the time to shock the well for us. For the most part, we don't even receive return phone calls from them, or if they do bother to respond, they do not see any way to "fit us into their schedule" for the next few weeks or more. We're moving into our new home in less than a week. It doesn't take a genius to understand that their lack of availability is in direct correlation to the fact that this is not a high-paying job for them.

We have called water treatment wholesalers, looking for "Well Safe" tablets or other well-shocking materials. They basically all say the same thing: Get a gallon of bleach. We called Home Depot, asking about tablets. Same response: Get a gallon of bleach, dump it in the well.

I did extensive research on the internet, finding no lack of materials on shocking a well. Reading through these materials and instructions, the job seems complex (drain water tanks, watch out for pumps, deposit bleach mixture via a burlap sack (?), etc. etc,) and have determined it is something we don't want to undertake ourselves.

We always seem to end up back at square one. So believe me, no disrespect taken in the fact that we lack the knowledge, no trouble admitting we want a professional to do the job. Just wish someone would decide it's worth the bother.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Sometimes, to excel is to be merely competent. Many plumbers lack the knowledge required for well problems and even water softeners often boggle their minds. Maybe they are avoiding you because they aren't knowledgable about your problem and don't want the exposure. If that's the case it'd be nice if they just told you the truth.

I've been in the same situation as you many times. Willing to pay for a professional to do their job and not finding one willing to do even that.

You need to find a well professional and not a plumber (unless they specialize in wells). Since you have a well there must be competent well people around ... someone is drilling those wells. It might take a lot of dialing to find them but you need to.

I'd expect the people who supplied you well hardware to finish the job by getting safe water into your home and providing you with documentation (ie: test results) to prove your water is safe before you move in. Maybe that's expecting too much but to me that's part of the job.

The people at the Home Depot are absolutely fearless at recommending anything for anyone else to do to their house or lawn or plumbing. Kinda like how everybody has a friend that knows all about computers. When they have a computer problem they call their friend and he leaves their computer in worse shape that before he got there.

If you have a water softener the resin will not like a high concentration of chlorine (bleach) and keeping the bleach out of your septic tank is a good idea if possible.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

I'm chuckling because shortly after my original post, I said to my dh, "I think we should call the people who put in the well. THEY should be able to do this job for us - if THEY are willing to bother." Of course, this dawns on me on a weekend, so we are stuck until Monday. We have no trouble spending the money, either. We just want the job done right.

You'd certainly think safe drinking water comes standard with your new construction home and new well. We were surprised to learn (when first signing our contract, we questioned this, then promptly forgot about the clause almost a year later now that the house is done) that our builder was only responsible for digging the well, and not for the quality of the water within the well.

We hired a home inspector to inspect our new home, including radon and water tests. The water came back, as noted, positive for total coliform, as well as being hard water. (And lucky us, radon at 6.0 pCi/L, so we'll be needing a mitigation system for that as well.)

We have hard water now, and a water softener which stays with the house we are leaving, so we have already purchased a new water softener which is still to be delivered, estimated, and installed (don't get me started on the stipulations and clauses involved with the installer's installation estimate, potential travel charge to bid the job prior to installation, etc. - this is through Sears).

We're up to our necks in new home, new construction, hoopla. Hopefully we'll have some luck with the well drillers come Monday.

Thanks for your reply.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Just as with buying a used house, your contract should have stipulated requirements for healthy water, radon, etc.

For well service you go to a well expert not a plumber. You most certainly can shock the well yourself, there is nothing hard about it. Search the web there is plenty of good information out there. Here is a howto from the State of TN which I found in about 10 s:
http://www.state.tn.us/environment/dws/waterwel.shtml

A well driller is normally expected to disinfect the well. The fact that your GC is cutting corners on the well would cause me to go over the rest of the house with a fine-toothed comb.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

If your well water is real hard I hope you invested in a better softener than a Kenmore from Sears. They do well(?) on 3gpg city water but not very well on hard well water.

I'm surprised that the people who dug your well and installed the pump and tanks and such didn't do the complete job and install a competent softener and what ever other treatment equipment the water conditions called for.

Living on a well is more complicated than on a water system as you are responsible for making and keep ing the water safe.

Let us know how this works out.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

My kenmore does great on 11gpg well water. And they had higher-capacity models than what I got.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Hi Fifidanon.

We just got back a report on our new well, and we're told it tested positive for coliform, but not e-coli.

It appears there's an important difference. E-coli, if I understand our city-county health department, is the raw sewage stuff, the contaminated greens, the severe diarrhea. But there's a lot of coliform bacteria that's much less malignant.

But either way, you want to fix it, and our CCHealth department is specific about how.

They tell you to introduce calcium hypoclorite (swimming pool chlorine powder) or sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) into the system, run the system until the bleach smell comes through all the possible outlets, and then turn it off for 12 hours minimum, and preferably 24 hours, and then turn everything on and run all the outlets until the chlorine smell is gone.

The amount to use varies with the size of your system. An 8 inch well, with water 50 feet down, requires 4.33 cups of household bleach, introduced with lots of water. Deeper wells and bigger ones require more, and vice-versa. With water to 100 feet a half gallon of bleach is called for in the eight inch well; a similar six inch well would only need 4.5 cups of bleach.

Worth noting that it's not uncommon for a new well to have a certain amount of coliform bacteria introduced to it simply by the act of drilling through the topsoil, which is a source of bacteria in and of itself.

If you need more specifics from the tables the health department provided please specify the well diameter in inches and the depth of water in the well, and I'll be happy to quote the tables.

Good luck,

Mark


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Hi Marknmt,

We just got our report back yesterday that we have coliform in our well. We would love to get a UV light, but don't think we can afford it until spring. (guess we know where some tax refund $'s are going already)

Could you provide us with step-by-step instructions on shocking the well with chlorine?

The well is 150ft deep, and DH isn't sure (right now) if it is 6in or 8in, so if you could provide both qty's of bleach, and then he will go measure when he goes outside. As well as how long to run the water, keep it turned off, etc.

Thank you.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

If you are moving into a new home the well should be chlorinated before you occupy the dwelling; that should be the GC's problem, not yours. Lots of luck.

...................................................
"If all else fails, read the directions"


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Here goes, Comkow.

"CHLORINATION STEPS"

1. "Calculate amount of chlorine needed to establish a concentration of 100 pm chlorine for coliform and non-coliform bacteria... " (using liquid household bleach, 5.25% sodium hypochlorite) " ... More chlorine may be necessary if the watr is turbid or with high organic material ... "

"Depth of water in well" 150 feet: 6 inch diameter 1 quart plus 3 cups; 8 inch diameter 3 quarts.

2. "Remove the well casing cap. Be careful not contaminate the cap. Pour the liquid chlorine down the well casing, rinsing the walls thoroughly. If you have a hose nearby, flush hose water down the well until you can smell chlorine come out of the hose. This will mix the chlorine with the well water. If you do not have a hose nearby, then dilute the chlorine in 10 gallons of water and pour it slowly down the well, washing the casing wall. Recap your well."

3. "Run water though every tap in the house, including tubs, utility sinks, showers and toilets, until you can smell chlorine. Let the chlorinated water sit in the lines for a minimum of 12 hours, preferably 24 hours. Do not use chlorinated water for pets, house plants, bathing or clothes washing.

4. "After 12-24 hours, discharge the chlorinated water onto a lawn or unused land area until you no longer smell chlorine. Do not empty into streams, ditches, or lakes, or into your septic system. The little remaining chlorinated water in house water lines can be emptied into your septic system or city sewer. You can now use the water."

5. "If your water was very contaminated, you may want to boil your drinking and tooth brushing water until you are certain the problem is solved. Add a teaspoon of bleach to your dish rinse watr and allow dishes to air dry. Ice made from contaminated water is not safe and must be discarded. Showers and clothes washing should not pose a health risk.

"RETESTING" "

After flushing out the chlorine and waiting a minimum of three days, preferably seven days, you should have your water tested. Obtain a test kit from the lab, or make arrangements with a registered sanitarian. You may need to chlorinate more than one with heavy contamination."

And that's all I know about that. Hope it helps.

:-)M


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

All I can say it "WOW". Thanks for the info, but I am not 100% sure we could possibly do this right now. I have two young children, one in school, and it seems we would need to "move out" for at least 24 hours. A call to the Poland Spring guy to have water delivered might be the only option right now.

It is not new construction. The house is 12 years old and we bought it 4 years ago. We had a complete water analysis done ($200) and at the time there was no coliform. The prior owners would not have know better to shock it before the inspection either.

From what I understand, it is a very "active" well. As mentioned, it is only down 150ft, where surrounding neighbors are 200+ft down. I guess this could cause it to be "turbid", since it is right in a vein and receives so much water flow....maybe too much?

We also had to replace the well pump last spring and from what I have read, this can disturb the underground and cause the growth of the coliform also.

This may be a stupid question, but how do you discharge water without it going in/on lawns, septics, stream, catch basins, etc?

I am going to call the lab tomorrow and pay them an extra $5 to get the coliform count to see what the urgency is in cleaning the pipes.

I will let you know what happens. Thanks for the info though.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Hello again Comkow.

I don't know anything about wells, except what I passed on to you, but you raise a couple of salient points.

1. I don't doubt that the pump replacement could have introduced coliform bacteria, but I don't know about your use of the term "growth of the coliform also" because I don't know whether the little critturs can grow at -150 feet, where they are presumably deprived of fresh organic material. I would expect them to die out over time, since they are out of their natural habitat. (If fresh organic material were somehow being introduced, as from a leaking septic system or a vein that somehow swept down from runoff, I would imagine that e-coli would also be showing up, but I'm just guessing.)

2. Your "stupid question" occured to me. Unfortunately, I'm not smart enough to answer it! I guess it's designed to prevent the author from being sued for somebody's dead lawn. I toyed with smarty comments that suggest spraying very high, but refrained.

3. I think the lab/urgency idea is a great one. When I posed questions to our local health department they were pretty casual about "coliform" bacteria- but they'll move in a hurry, I know, over "e-coli". You might have to chat for a few minutes before they're comfortable with surrendering personal insights as opposed to official points of view, ay?

4. "Turbidity" is "cloudiness", right? I imagine that would suggest activity of some kind. Where we live there is an underground river that flows through so fast that the bulk of the acquifer is said to exchange completely everyday- so that's pretty active, I would think. But I don't know that turbidity is considered much of an issue here.

Good luck- I'm sure it'll work out well.

:-)M


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Dumping the water onto your lawn is not the end of the world, although do it away from the well I guess, to prevent it seeping back down. But the amount you're talking about (Chlorine) isn't that big.

You need to deal with this - now you know it's hard, you sound like you're backpedalling and wondering how 'urgent' it is - by all means drink bottled water, but bite the bullet and clean the thing.

I suppose one thing to check is that fresh contaminants aren't getting down from above, when I was a kid we bought an old farm as a weekender, it had a concrete-sleeved well but it was covered with rotten old wood, not surprisingly the water wasn't good - dad shocked it with chlorine - just domestic bleach - and we ran taps for a while.

Don't flood your neighbours or kill their plants, but don't get too worked up about it either.

Turbidity might decrease with use, depending on the well, and in the long run if you have more problems, you may want to consider going deeper.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Yes, I was backpedaling, but while thinking about it over the weekend, we do realize that it is a somewhat serious situation. We didn't even bother paying the extra $5 for the count since we need to shock the well regardless. Even if we end up getting a UV light down the road, we realize the bacteria is in the pipes and it needs to be disinfected now. DH will shock the well Friday evening after work and hopefully we will all be taking showers by Saturday afternoon. Hopefully all will go well.

Can someone answer two questions for me...how should we disinfect the RO system at the kitchen sink. I know we need to put it in standby/bypass mode when we do the chlorine, but I am sure there is bacteria in there too now. We just had the darned thing hooked back up last week after a kitchen renovation. Two days later, my neighbor calls me with the news are e-coli in the neighborhood..uugghh.

What about a water softener? I think it also needs to be put in bypass mode, but how to disinfect it?

Thanks.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

Many years ago we had a water test done in order to refinance. The test came back positive for something so they said to have our well chlorinated. I called my well guy and he comes out and dumps 2 gallons of bleach down the well cap and says to draw water into all you fixtures untill you smell chlorine...let it sit over night and then run the garden hose until you cant smell it. Charged me $80.Retested the water and that was the end of it.
On the other hand, my brother did the same thing to his and it loosened up all sorts of crud down there and he burned out his well pump.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

If that nasty water got to the RO then it will need to be santized.

Chlorine will kill the membrane in your RO. By all means bypass the RO when shocking the well.

Dissasemble and sanitize the RO according to manufacturer's recommended procedure. Replace the sediment and carbon filters.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

We just got back a positive test for coliform bacteria, not fecal though. I sent in a water sample from our well on the 6th and was supposed to get results bak on the 9th. I got the results on the 15th. We are not supposed to drink, bathe in, or wash dishes in the water until the necessary repairs and clean up are completed. How dangerous is it to do these things? The whole family has been for I'm not sure how long(have no idea when we became contaminated).Thanks to everyone for the procedures of shocking the well too, the results that I found here were more descriptive than the ones I received with the test result.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

I hate to add to the confusion, but I dont' understand this waiting 12 hour thing. The contact time to kill what you need to kill is 10-12 minutes. I operated a water system serving 29 families. To shock the well we poured 1/2 gallon of bleach into the system and just let the people use the water normally. The well was about 500' from the homes so it probably took at least 10 minutes for the water to get there. Did a test the next day at one of the homes and it always came back good. I think trying to run water through each fixture is a good idea. I can't give you advice on how to handle the water softeners... never dealt with them.
As far as getting clorine on your lawn or in your septic....people use bleach for washing and this is at a much higher concentration that we are discussing here. This water normally goes into the septic sytem with no harm. Also, I sometimes drain my pool onto my lawn. This pool water, again, is at a much higher concentration than well shocking. The grass stays just as green. Can't see any effect at all.
Our system had a 1/2" plastic pipe leading into the top of the well casing. We kept the pipe plugged, but when we wanted to add clorine, we just stuck a funnel in the pipe and poured then plugged it up again.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

The general instructions to pour a solution of bleach water down the well, rising the sides of the casing and then running the faucets and allowing the solution to sit in the pipes for 12 hours is what I understand to be the typical solution as well.

A couple of things to watch for:

The high chlorine concentrations can break loose a lot of crud in the pipes. Often this is iron and bio-slime. You will want to send as much of the gunk out the hose and then remove strainers on faucets before flushing out.

The chlorine can also damage water softener resins, I believe. You will need to bypass the softener and then find out how to deal with that seperately.

Also, be sure to pull the chlorinated water into the water heater by running hot water valves until you smell the bleach.

The 12 hours is needed because there is often a layer of bio-slime in the pipes that needs to be penetrated.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

I guess I still don't understand the 12 hour wait. If any municpality has to issue a boil water because some tests have come back bad, they just add to the system what they need, do more tests and if okay, tell customers to stop boiling. I've seen a number of these orders and have never seen any system tell customers to wait 12 hours. Maybe I'm missing something.
M


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

- 100 ppm (kills fecal coliform) to 200 ppm (kills iron and sulphur reducing bacteria) chlorine will not damage water softener resin. In fact, the instructions included with my PETWA softener give details on how to shock the softener itself, so no worries there.

-you want chlorinated water at a concentration per the step by step instructions given above to touch every line and fixture in the house. Start by turning off your hot water tank and running the hot side of your bathtub fixture until you get an obvious smell of chlorine. Repeat for every hot side in the house. This will ensure that your hot water tank is treated as well. Repeat with every cold side including outside hydrants. The chlorinated water should sit in your well and plumbing for a minium of 8 hrs. You should avoid flushing toilets if on septic but if it's unavoidable, a few (FEW) flushes will not hurt anything.

-Draining the chlorinated water is time consuming and involved. Start by attaching a garden hose to the drain on the hot water tank (making sure that gas/electric has been SHUT OFF) and leading that hose to your sump or ditch outside. Crack the drain valve wide open and let it run. If you have a laundry tub with a threaded end on the spout fixture, then attach a garden house leading to the great outdoors and open the hot water tap all the way. This will flush your hot water tank, softener and pressure tank and well. Run the water until there is no apparent smell of chlorine, you'll want to use test strips or a pool test kit to verify that the chlorine is gone, your nose will "die" pretty quick sniffing heavily chlorinated water.

Once the hot water side of your system has no chlorine coming from the laundry tub tap, drain the cold water side using the same laundry tub tap. Once no chlorine registers on the cold water side, run all the main taps in the house, hot then cold until no chlorine is present. The small amount of water that you are dealing with that is left in your plumbing will not harm the septic tank. It is imperative that you follow the first steps to drain the lions share of the chlorinated water out of your plumbing system and to clear your well.

You can do cold side first, while draining the well, it's up to you.

Be patient, getting the chlorine out is an all day task.

-Regarding your RO, remove the membrane, filters and discard, make sure that chlorinated water gets into the housing and tap.

We recently did this to kill off sulphur reducing bacteria (harmless to us, but boy did they ever add a rotten egg smell to the water). It was easy, but time consuming


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

This type of discussion can quickly twist and confuse. Step out of the procedure mode and think logic.

1. What type of disinfectant: Calcium hypochlorite chunks or powder works good if the well is artesian, as sodium hypo (bleach) would be trapped in the top of the water column. However, calcium hypo may not dissolve readily if the water is already hard. In which case it's always a good idea to take a hose and recircualate the chlorinated water in the well.

2. How much calcium hypo or bleach? This is not a precise science.....the amount of minerals and organic matter will effect the chlorine residual. I prefer to shoot for a 5-10 ppm strength as chlorine may be aggressive for the well casing, plumbing, and pump. Also chlorine raises pH. If the pH raises much above neutral then calcium tends to precipitate and may form a protective shell over slime bacterias. Thus to do it right you may need a little vinegar to keep the pH below 7.5

Contact time is important to an extent. The Feds require a 30 minute contact time at chlorinated water plants, but operators ensure water quality parameters are within reason and there tends to be more mixing than at most homes. So the longer suggested time is simply a saftey factor.

Why fidget with water. Just b/c water is hard doesn't mean it should be softened. I see more people over soften water and make it aggressive, thus shortening plumbing life and leac metals like lead & copper. Why displace minerals like calcium and magnesium with sodium? Total coliform bacteria is an indicator bacteria, it means there may be an interface with the pure drinking water and the environment. I drink total coliform every time I get a drink from the hose and chances are your kids playing ball for the school do too. But alas we are suckers for water conditioning devices and bottled water. Money makes the world go round.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

"think logic"......

1-2 ppm chlorine is maintenance concentration, eg you're using an automatic feed system

100 ppm is required to shock kill coliform

200 ppm is required to shock kill iron and sulphur reducing bacteriae

5-10 ppm is by definition not a shock concentration


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

I attempted to shock my well. I poured in 48 ounces of bleach along with 8 gallons of water. I know it said to use 30 gallons, but didn't have enough clean containers. I Poured them both in at the same time. When I ran the facets inside, no bleach smell was detected. What went wrong? I made sure to run the facets for about 10 minutes searching for the bleach smell, but none was detected. Any advice? I live in a area prone to arsenic so they say not to use to much bleach.

Oh, when I took off the well cap, before i started the process, I could see water at the bottom. I guessing 60-80 feet down.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

You didn't run the water long enough and didn't mix your well water and chlorine by using your garden hose to run water back into the well casing.

When I shocked my well, chlorine smell didn't show up for at least half an hour on the cold water side and even longer on the hot water side.

Pouring an arbitrary amount is guesswork and you may end up with too low a concentration or too high a concentration. You need to know the depth of the water columnn itself (county, state, provincial, well-driller records) and the diameter of the well to add the correct amount.

To get proper dilution, you could have diluted 16 oz with 8 gallons at a time.

Good luck.


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

OK- I too, have to shock my well due to coliform. Coliform is pretty much all over where there is cattle. The bacteria is washed down into the soil by irrigation- that then goes into the well water. It can also contaminate your well when it is drilled and the bit has not been disinfected after the previous drill. The well driller should be doing this routinely, but alas, many people are either to lazy, too cheap to buy a couple gallons of bleach or too dumb- which they should not be, as they should know their job thoroughly.
I am a bit worried about actually pouring the bleach though- as I cannot get an answer from the local(40 miles away), well company- what exactly does the motor in the well shaft look like? Is is'covered', so that the bleach will not short out the motor? I don't want to ruin the motor doing this, and I am not knowledgeable at all about the mechanics of the pump.
Thanks


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RE: Shocking the Well - Best Procedure?

I dont' recommend "shocking" the well. Too many horror stories like having to run the water 24/7 before the chlorine smell clears up, or have the pump fall off the end of the pipe.

Is one shock enough? Will the coliform return? If so, how do I know when it has returned?

The best way is to chlorinate after it comes out of the ground. As long as the chlorinator is maintained, it will give you peace of mind.


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