Signs That Your Well Water is Contaminated

Water Contamination

Does your household get water from a well system rather than public groundwater? If you’re in Illinois, there’s a chance you could be! According to Indiana DNR, there are over 400,000 private water wells in our state.

One of the most significant differences between well water and public groundwater is regulation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates and tests public water supplies. However, for private well-owners, testing is left up to them and should be done at least annually. However, more frequent and stringent testing may be required if you see signs of contamination. So, how do you know what to look out for in your well water? At C&J Well Co., we believe in giving you the best information. Here are the warning signs that something could be wrong with your well water!

Contamination You Can See

Water Contamination


When your water comes out of the faucet, is it crystal clear? Or does it look murky and muddied? If it’s the second one, it could result from dirt, clay salts, silt, or rust in your water. Because of how well water is taken from the ground, it passes over different materials, such as those listed above. When the water washes over those materials, it can carry the particles with it. That gives you the dirty water look in your glass! Also, if your water is unclear, it can indicate poor plumbing problems. If your pipes are corroded or rusting, those particles will end up in your glass. Plant matter, leaf litter, insects entering your well cap, and other environmental factors like erosion, flooding, and fires can contribute to organic or inorganic particulate matter entering your water supply. Yellow or white/cloudy discoloration could indicate such contamination, though it may not be quite so obvious.

Scale or Scum Buildup

Scale buildup or a scummy feeling from water is often associated with calcium or magnesium, and both of these contaminants are minerals that create hard water in high enough concentrations. The white buildup from scale and scum can also clog your pipes and plumbing fixtures. 

Green Stains on Sinks, Faucets, and Fixtures

Another sign to look out for in well-water homes is stains on areas that use water. Green stains on your sinks and faucets could be an indicator of a high level of acid in your water. These contaminants corrode and weaken your pipes. They may also carry health risks, including vomiting, diarrhea, kidney disease, liver disease, stomach cramps, and nausea.

Brown or Red Stains on Sinks, Clothes, or Dishwasher

Another stain color to look out for is brown or red. While a green stain could indicate many different acids in your drinking water, this color often signals dissolved iron.

Iron deposits that show up in these places indicate a higher-than-normal level in your drinking water. Like the other acids, too much iron can have health risks, including damage to the heart, liver, and pancreas.

Dirt or Sediment 

Problems might not always be at the microscopic level. If dirt and sediment get into your well pump, large particles and murky water could make it into your tap (along with any number of the above chemicals too). These issues could mean more significant structural integrity concerns with your well, pump, tank, or pipes.

Contamination You Can Taste

If your water suddenly has a different taste, it might be a sign of contamination. Let’s take a closer look at various tastes and what they might mean regarding unwanted particles in your water.

Water Contamination

Chemical Taste

If your water has a chemical taste to it, there could be chemicals or pesticides getting into your well. These chemicals can run off and seep into the groundwater from industrial areas and can have serious health risks.

Metallic Taste

Acidic contaminants can make your water taste like metal. For instance, if your water tastes like nickels and dimes, the acidic pollutants in your water are too high.

Soapy Taste

A soapy taste to your water can mean that you have high levels of alkaline minerals in your water. Alkaline minerals include calcium, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate. At high levels, a person can experience gastrointestinal issues and skin irritation.

Salty Taste

If your water has a salty taste, it could be due to high sodium or chloride content. High levels of sodium or chloride can be dangerous to people on low-sodium diets, and it can also corrode and damage your plumbing.

Contamination You Can Smell

Chlorine Smell

When your water smells like a swimming pool, it can be from excessive chlorination. Chlorine is used to treat water, and a small amount helps your water; however, a lot of chlorine can be harmful. Your well water might not be treated with chlorine, but almost all city water is, and chlorine is not healthy to ingest or even shower with.

Rotten Egg Smell

A rotten egg smell makes it easy to determine if your water is contaminated. This smell indicates sulfur bacteria or hydrogen sulfide gas. Sulfur bacteria are naturally occurring, forming through decay and chemical reactions with soil and rocks.

Detergent Smell

If your water smells like laundry detergent, more than likely, a septic tank has leaked into the well water. Septic tanks carry a host of bacteria and contamination that can harm your health.

Other Signs of Contamination 

Water Contamination

The above items only scratch the surface of chemicals and minerals that could invade your water supply.

Coliform Bacteria

Bacteria like Giardia or E. coli — can enter your water supply through animal waste like a manure pit or sewage from a septic tank. Bacteria can also come from the bodies of decomposing animals that may have found a way into your well cap but were unable to find their way out. You can’t see or smell these bacteria, which makes testing that much more critical, especially if you’ve had a sewage overflow or flooding recently. Storm or agricultural runoff could be all it takes for bacteria to make their way into your well water. 

Forever Chemicals

PFOA, PFOS, PFAS chemicals, arsenic, and silica are other possible water contaminants to watch out for, depending on your geographic area. Radon gas is another, which, for example, is colorless, tasteless, odorless, and radioactive, which amplifies the need for testing.

Also, be aware of any local contamination events or contraction projects. If hazardous wastes or other construction materials are at a job site, they must be disposed of properly to ensure they don’t end up in the groundwater supply.

While it’s essential to know how a well works and keep up on basic maintenance yourself, the most important way to ensure safe water in the face of tasteless, odorless, and colorless contaminants is through annual testing by a licensed professional. Samples of your water should be sent to a certified laboratory, which can give you detailed results about your water. The National Groundwater Association (NGWA) provides online resources for homeowners with private wells at There you can learn more about well maintenance, water quality, and water treatment options. 

If you see, taste, or smell any of these signs that indicate your well water may be contaminated, contact C&J Well Co. Our team of experienced professionals can diagnose the problem and help you solve it. Don’t risk your family’s health! Be on the lookout for signs of contamination, and call us when you spot them!