Frequently Asked Questions

Buer Well Drilling

What are the benefits of well water vs. other options?
Is there any cost savings with a well vs. city water or other options?
How do I know which kind of well is right for my home?
How long does it take to install a well for my home?
What maintenance is involved with a well?
Will I need a water purification system with well water?
I don't like the taste of my well water. What do you recommend?
How do I know my well water is safe? / Is well water safe for me and my family?
What are nitrates?
What about bacteria in water?
Should I be testing for other contaminants?
If our water looks or smells bad is it unsafe?
Our water is yellow - how come?
We don't have the water pressure we used to - why is this?
It seems like our pump turns on and off a lot - what might cause this?

What are the benefits of well water vs. other options?
Well water is naturally filtered of harmful bacteria and organisms as it soaks down thru the soil to a sub surface aquifer. This means under normal conditions you do not need to add chlorine to the water to make it safe to drink, so any health risks associated with chlorine in the water are avoided. Because groundwater sources are generally protected by many feet of soil the water is safe to drink right from the aquifer. Municipal systems which draw surface water from lakes and rivers need to treat their water with filtration, UV light, and chemicals to kill harmful bacteria and pathogens that are present in surface water. There have been documented instances where failures at water treatment plants have caused sickness and death of consumers of public water supplies. A private well, like a treatment plant, must be properly constructed and maintained to be kept safe. The difference in risk is that in a private water well system the burden is to keep the equipment sanitary so the naturally clean groundwater is not contaminated. In a public surface water based water system unsafe water is being treated to ensure that it is sanitary. The greater burden for safety is on any water system using non-potable water as a source. Another area of concern that is being researched is traces of pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water. In general, there have been fewer issues with pharmaceuticals leeching into groundwater from septic systems than there are being found in municipal supplies that are recycling waste water to make potable water. Pharmaceutical drugs in water are a developing issue that we all need to be aware of.

back to top

Is there any cost savings with a well vs. city water or other options?
Yes there can be significant savings. The initial cost of a water well for a residence ranges between $3,500 & $10,000 depending on the depth of the well and size of the pumping system. Once the water system is installed, other than a minimal cost for electricity to operate the pump, it is not uncommon for well owners to go 10 to 20 years without any major repairs being needed to their water system, some go as long as 30 years. The benefit of not having monthly water bills, especially if U.G. sprinkling is being utilized, will pay back over time. For applications with geo-thermal open loop, large scale irrigation, or commercial use, a well is generally the only cost affordable option to supply water. Water treatment equipment is an additional cost associated with well water which must also be factored in to a cost analysis. Most rural water districts are supplied with well water so water treatment equipment will probably be required even though you have a public water supply. Generally water supplied from lakes and rivers in larger public systems does not need water treatment for iron or hardness. Filtration equipment to remove chlorine may be required in any public supply.

back to top

How do I know which kind of well is right for my home?
Ask neighbors and locals from the surrounding area who the most trustworthy local well drillers are. Your drinking water is not the place to necessarily look for only the lowest bid; you want a conscientious contractor who is concerned with your water needs. No one is going to know more about local water conditions than a local contractor whose family has drilled in your area for years. After getting drilling contractor referrals ask your potential contractor if they are members of the Michigan Ground Water Association and/or the National Ground Water Association. This will let you know that the well drilling contractor is concerned about conducting business in a professional manner, they are interested in learning all they can about groundwater, and they have an interest in preserving and protecting our precious ground water. Your local drilling contractor will have an intimate knowledge of the water quality and quantity available at your property and how to best design a water system that will meet your needs. Buer Well Drilling has generations of experience in West Michigan drilling for water. We would love to share our knowledge of the ground water in your area and the products and system design idea's we believe will best meet your needs.

back to top

How long does it take to install a well for my home?
Generally a new well can be drilled, installed into the home within 1 to 4 days for uses other than drinking. Within an additional 24 to 36 hours water test results will be available from the laboratory certifying that the water is safe for drinking.

back to top

What maintenance is involved with a well?
We recommend getting your water tested initially for bacteria and nitrates when you purchase a home. If the nitrate levels are negligible we recommend testing annually for bacteria. See How do I know my well water is safe for additional testing information. We recommend having a mechanical inspection of your well system by Buer Well Drilling at least every 5 years. Make sure that any time anything out of the ordinary occurs with your water system to contact Buer Well Drilling with questions. It's better to correct a small problem before it becomes an expensive problem or health risk to your family.

back to top

Will I need a water purification system with well water?
There are very few wells in West Michigan that do not need some kind of water filtration for aesthetic reasons. If you have iron levels above 0.3 ppm you will experience iron staining in toilets and tubs and coating of plumbing pipes and your fixtures. We recommend a water softener or some kind of filtration to keep the iron solids from getting into your distribution system. If you have iron levels above 2 ppm we recommend a water softener with a special iron removal bed or some type of iron filter. Iron levels over 2.0 are too much for a conventional water softener to deal with. We will be happy to test your water and give you suggestions.

If you have U.G. sprinkling you will need to keep in mind that iron levels over 0.3 will stain your siding, landscape bricks, and cement, so some kind of iron filtration will be needed on the irrigation system to keep things from turning orange. Talk to us about a Rid-a Rust system to help keep iron off your landscaping and walkways.

If you are fortunate enough to have iron levels below 0.3 in your well water you still probably have enough hardness in your water (dissolved calcium and magnesium) to inhibit your detergents and soaps from working properly. You will also probably notice white chalky buildup on dishes in the dishwasher and on glass shower doors etc. This "lime" buildup will coat your plumbing and build up in your hot water heater also. We recommend a water softener for most residential wells or some kind of alternative filtering to protect your plumbing and appliances from lime buildup. You will find your soaps and detergents work properly and also your dishes will lose that chalky film. Give us a call and we can recommend some water treatment options.

back to top

I don't like the taste of my well water. What do you recommend?
If this is your first water well there is an adjustment going from chlorinated "city" water to a water well. We would encourage you to give it a little time and eventually you may actually prefer natural well water over "city" water. With that being said some homes are piped so all the water passes through the water softener. That means your drinking water is softened water which some folks don't care for. Also your water may have a distinct taste that you do not enjoy. There are many drinking water filters that can be installed specifically with their own drinking water tap at the kitchen sink which also filter the icemaker on your refrigerator. We recommend professionally installed filtration instead of retail filtration units that you pour water through or attach directly to your faucet. The amount of usable water you can get through professionally installed filtration will far exceed the amount available from smaller retail units and they have the benefit of supplying the drinking faucet and icemaker. You will save money in the long run with a professionally installed system and will get higher quality water. Two of the most common units we install are Reverse Osmosis Filtration and Carbon Filters. These filters are great if you are a coffee drinker because the better the water the better the coffee. Please contact us and we will show you some inexpensive options to ensure your drinking water is of higher quality and purity than the bottled water you may currently be purchasing.

back to top

How do I know my well water is safe? Is well water safe for me and my family?
This is a question all water users should be concerned with and we recommend all groundwater users do some research on their own to answer. Please use our links to access resources for more in depth studies on ground water. The groundwater in West Michigan is generally very safe and offers benefits that many municipal water systems can not offer. There are some exceptions and you need to talk to Buer Well Drilling and your county health department to verify if you are located in an area that has groundwater issues.

back to top

What are nitrates?
We recommend that you get your water tested for nitrates if you have not had your water tested. Nitrates are used as an indicator of an aquifers protection and give us a clue if the aquifer is vulnerable to other contaminants. Nitrates are a combination of nitrogen and oxygen and generally work their way from the ground surface downward into the groundwater. Some common sources of nitrates on or near the ground surface are nitrogen fertilizers, septic waste, and manure. In most areas the nitrates are kept out of the groundwater by the filtering properties of the clay and sand layers between the surface and the water table. In area's that have a lot of sand and gravel layers, and there are, or have been, significant amounts of Nitrogen placed on or near the ground surface, the nitrates can get carried down into the aquifer thru the hydrological cycle. High Nitrates can also occur in the groundwater in areas where there may be an improperly constructed well or sewage system creates a contamination pathway into an aquifer. The EPA limit for nitrates in drinking water is 10 ppm per mg/L. It is not uncommon to find nitrate levels between less than 1 ppm & 10 ppm in shallow wells in areas of sandy soil that has seen many years of agricultural use. This is not necessarily a cause for undue concern. If your well has nitrate levels between 1 ppm and 10 ppm we recommend you test for nitrate levels annually to determine that the Nitrate levels are staying within EPA limits. It is not uncommon for Nitrate levels to fluctuate throughout the year as aquifer recharge is impacted by water use and rainfall. Often the original source of contamination may have been addressed through the years. Farmers have cut back on their Nitrogen use over the years so we see many areas where the Nitrate levels have remained steady or are slowly declining. Nitrate levels over 10 ppm can cause health problems for infants less than 1 year old and the elderly. High levels of nitrates can disrupt oxygen transfer into the bloodstream. We recommend caution using water with Nitrate levels between 1 & 10 ppm for infants and the elderly. For everyone else there should not be any undue risks associated consuming water with less than 10 ppm nitrates. For additional precautions there are filtration systems such as Reverse Osmosis systems, which can reduce the nitrate levels in your water. Be reminded that water conditioning equipment designed to reduce nitrate levels will only be effective when the equipment is designed for your application and regularly serviced. We are not aware of any studies that indicate risk when using water with high Nitrate levels for as bathing or washing. If your water has nitrate levels over 10 ppm we recommend not drinking the water until you install treatment equipment to reduce the nitrate levels below 10 ppm. In most cases where the Nitrate levels exceed 10 ppm our recommendation is to drill a well to a deeper, more protected aquifer for Nitrate free water.

back to top

What about bacteria in water?
We recommend that you get your water tested for E-Coli and Coliform bacteria if you have not had your water tested. Coliform bacteria are not necessarily in and of them selves a health risk but they are used as indicators of contamination in a water system. There are many different kinds of bacteria found in the soil and groundwater, which for the most part are not harmful to humans. Bacteria are actually useful in cleaning water of debris on its way down through the earth and even can clean water in the aquifer. Coliform bacteria is not a species of bacteria, it is a group of bacteria made up of many different species that conform to certain growth requirements for testing. Positive results for coliform do not necessarily mean that fecal bacteria are present in a well. Think of coliform bacteria as our "target to hit". When coliform bacteria are absent it ensures us that we have a clean, safe water well. E-Coli on the other hand are related to fecal bacteria and needs to be cleaned from a water system immediately if they are present. We are almost always able to clean a well so that Coliform bacteria are not present. The cure may be as simple as flushing a well by pumping a large amount of water overnight, chlorinating a well and plumbing system, or with stubborn bacteria, scrubbing a well and pumping out all the debris and then chlorinating the system. A positive test for bacteria is not a cause for panic. It means the well needs to be sanitized and within a couple of days should be back in working order providing safe, clean water.

back to top

Should I be testing for other contaminants?
Yes under certain conditions we recommend that you have additional water testing for the following:

back to top

If our water looks or smells bad is it unsafe?
You should get your water tested for bacteria if there are changes in the taste, color, or odor of your water. Generally the taste, odor, and color of water are more aesthetic issues and are not related to your aquifer being contaminated. Some conditions in ground water that are generally not considered health risks but should be addressed with water conditioning equipment.

Hydrogen Sulfide Gas which has the odor of rotten eggs in the water. This is typically caused by iron reducing bacteria who are feeding on sulfates or gypsum. They are naturally occurring bacteria that are anaerobic and often found in clay and shale layers. Hydrogen sulfide gas is quite corrosive and to metal piping and very unpleasant in the home. A simple home test is to fill a glass with cold water. If the odor goes away in about 10 sec. it is probably Hydrogen Sulfide caused by sulfate reducing bacteria. There are several fairly effective ways to deal with this gas.

If the odor is only in the hot water you need to remove the anode rod from the hot water heater. This rod is reacting with your well water and causing the gas. The gas is not being caused by sulfate reducing bacteria.

A fiberglass bladderless style pressure tank with an aerator system and a gas venting system to outside the house will remove the gas from the water in most cases. We have very good success installing these tanks with Hydrogen sulfide gas.

An iron filter is air injection will remove this gas. This may be a good option if you have high iron content (above 1.5 ppm iron). This unit will take care of the high iron and the odor. We will test your water to determine if this is a good fit for your system.

Carbon based filters will remove odors from water. Remember that carbon filters degrade quickly so in most cases a carbon filter must be installed downstream from all other water conditioning equipment or it will not last. We can show you filter options that will work with your water and size them to make sure your home maintains adequate water pressure.

back to top

Our water is yellow - how come?
Water that is yellow or greenish tint may have tannic acid that is discoloring the water. Tannic acid is caused by decaying vegetation being absorbed by ground water. Often it is related to nearby swamps or vegetation that was buried by the glaciers such as buried trees. Certain plants contain higher levels of tannic acid so just because you live near a swamp does not mean you will have tannic acid in your water. To test whether you have tannic acid or iron in your water turn on an outside faucet and let the water run for 15 min. Fill a clean white bucket with water. If the water immediately is discolored as the bucket fills you probably have tannins in your water. Sometimes tannins will have a swampy odor as well as color. If the bucket fills and is initially clear, but as time passes it turns yellow or orange it is more than likely iron oxidizing in the water.

The best cure for Tannins is to drill to another aquifer is possible. Tannins are difficult to treat with conditioning equipment and cause staining problems. They are also quite corrosive. There are water conditioners with tannin beds to remove tannins but in most cases because of the high maintenance and limited effectiveness of this equipment water from a better quality aquifer is the best answer.

If your water turned yellow in the bucket over time you have high iron levels and need to get your water tested for Iron. Very often if iron levels are high enough to turn the water yellow in a short amount of time you will need an iron filter because you probably have quite high iron levels.

back to top

We don't have the water pressure we used to - why is this?
There are a myriad of reasons why your water pressure is reduced. This can range from plugged pre-filters for water softeners, improperly working water conditioning equipment, pressure tank problems, worn pumps, and pumps and pipelines plugged with iron. We recommend a service call to check over your water system. We will check pump capacity & pressure, the condition of your pump motor & wiring, how your well is producing, and the function of your pressure tank & pump controls. We will also take a look and your water conditioning equipment to ensure that is working properly. It is important to have your water system checked over every few years. If it has been a while since you had your system checked over we would recommend having the professional service techs and Buer Well Drilling check your water system to make sure you are getting maximum performance from your water well system.

back to top

It seems like our pump turns on and off a lot - what might cause this?
If your well pump runs sometimes when you are not using water or you notice your pump is turning on and off rapidly this is an indication that your water system requires service. We recommend getting your water system serviced promptly to correct any problems which may be minor now, but if left unattended could lead to major well repairs.

back to top