If you rely on a private well for drinking water in the Tampa Bay area, hiring a professional inspector to regularly check your well is crucial for protecting your health and maintaining a safe water supply. Well water can easily become contaminated with bacteria, chemicals, sediment and other pollutants that can make your family sick if left unchecked. An experienced well inspector knows how to thoroughly evaluate all aspects of your well system and can detect potential problems before they turn into major issues. Here are some tips on what to look for when hiring a professional well inspector in Tampa Bay.
Verify Licensing and Certification
Make sure any well inspection company you consider is properly licensed in Florida for well contractor services. The two main licenses to look for are:
Florida Water Well Contractor License - Issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Contractors must pass an exam and show proof of sufficient experience.
Hillsborough County Well Driller License - Required to construct new wells and modify existing wells in Hillsborough County. Issued by the Hillsborough County Health Department.
Additionally, many reputable inspectors hold voluntary certifications from the National Ground Water Association (NGWA), such as the Certified Groundwater Professional certification. This demonstrates they have received accredited training specific to groundwater and wells.
Look for Extensive Hands-On Experience
Don’t just rely on licenses - make sure the inspector has ample actual experience inspecting wells similar to yours. Ask how long they have been inspecting wells and how many they inspect annually. An inspector who has examined hundreds or thousands of wells will be more knowledgeable and skilled than a relative newcomer.
Request References and Reviews
Always ask for references from past clients and look for online reviews. This allows you to get firsthand accounts of an inspector's customer service, professionalism, inspection thoroughness and ability to explain inspection findings. Be wary of any inspector unwilling to provide references.
Check What's Included in the Inspection
A complete well inspection should examine the well cap, casing, pitless adapter, well tank, pressure switch, flow rate and more. The inspector should also test for common contaminants like bacteria, nitrates, chlorides and arsenic. Get a list beforehand of everything covered in the inspection so you can compare with other companies.
Look for Detailed Inspection Reporting
The well inspection process isn't complete without a professional detailed report of all findings and recommendations for any necessary repairs. Ask to see a sample report so you know what to expect. A quality report will explain all inspection results in lay terms so you fully understand the condition of your well.
Consider Inspectors Who Also Provide Other Services
Some well inspection companies also provide other services like water testing, water treatment system installation and well repairs or replacements. Choosing such a “one-stop shop” can streamline any follow-up work needed after the inspection. For example, our company Aqua-Wise offers complete inspection and testing services as well as top-quality water treatment systems for any issues detected, like the AquaLux Water Softener for hard water or the AquaGuard UV SYSTEM for bacteria removal.
Ask About Safety & Contamination Precautions
A responsible inspector should adhere to best practices for maintaining clean equipment and avoiding well contamination when completing inspections. This is especially important if they inspect wells on multiple properties. Ensure they clean and disinfect all testing equipment between uses and take precautions like sealing the well cap to protect it from contaminants.
Review Payment & Scheduling Policies
Find out upfront what the inspector’s rates and payment policies are. Most charge a fixed rate for a standard residential inspection but may have additional fees for more complex commercial inspections or water testing. Also ask how far in advance you need to schedule and whether weekend or evening appointments are available.
Don’t Rely Solely on the Home Inspector
When purchasing a home with a private well, don’t assume the general home inspector will thoroughly check the well system. Their expertise is in the home itself, not wells. Always hire a professional well inspector to get an in-depth evaluation.
Why Annual Well Inspections Are Essential
Just like an annual check-up with your doctor, having your well inspected every year provides invaluable preventative care for your water supply and your family’s health. Annual inspections can catch any issues before they become serious, which saves you money and headaches down the road.
Prevent Costly Emergency Repairs
Well components like pumps and storage tanks have finite life spans. Without routine inspections, they can unexpectedly fail and leave you without water services. This often requires expensive emergency repairs. Annual inspections ensure components are evaluated regularly so any need for replacement can be caught early. Preventative maintenance is much cheaper than emergency fixes.
Avoid Water Contamination
Small cracks or damage in the well casing or cap can allow bacteria, chemicals, or sediment to enter and contaminate your drinking water over time. An inspector will check for any well housing defects and advise sealing or repairs before contamination occurs. Routine inspections also include testing for common contaminants.
Monitor Water Quality Changes
An inspector tests your untreated well water for many characteristics like hardness, iron content, bacterial levels, etc. Comparing new results year-after-year helps reveal any gradual changes in water quality that may indicate a problem requiring treatment. For instance, increasing nitrate levels may mean fertilizer pollution.
Keep Detailed Written Records
Your inspector should provide a detailed report after each annual inspection. Save these! Reports provide valuable documentation of your well’s baseline output and water quality along with any repairs over time. Detailed records also come in handy if you ever sell the home.
Ensure Proper Maintenance
Inspectors check that all well system components are functioning as designed and don’t need maintenance like sediment filter cleaning. They may recommend maintenance steps you can do yourself between inspections to optimize performance. Taking action on inspector recommendations helps prevent bigger issues later on.
Install Any Needed Water Treatment
Based on inspection findings, your inspector may advise installing water treatment equipment like a AquaCarbonGuard Catalytic Carbon Filter for removing heavy metals or an AquaRevive Reverse Osmosis System to filter saltwater intrusion in coastal areas. It’s much wiser to add treatment proactively than wait until poor water quality makes someone ill.
Provide Peace of Mind
Perhaps most importantly, annual professional well inspections simply provide peace of mind that your well and water supply remain in great shape. The health of your family depends on clean, uncontaminated well water. Make sure to schedule inspections at least yearly, or more often if you have any specific concerns about your water.
Understanding Key Elements of a Well Inspection
When you hire a professional well inspector in the Tampa area, there are several key elements they will examine to determine your well system’s overall condition. Here is an overview of the major components included in a standard well inspection.
Well Location Assessment
Your inspector will first evaluate the area immediately surrounding your wellhead. They will check for any contamination risks like proximity to septic tanks, livestock areas, chemical storage or landfills. Well location can severely impact water quality.
Well Cap Inspection
The well cap fittingly caps the actual well hole. It should form an airtight seal to prevent contaminants from entering. Inspectors look for any cracks, gaps, or damage allowing dirt, insects or surface water in. A compromised cap must be replaced.
Well casing is the lining that maintains the well walls. The inspector will check for pitting, cracking, or corrosion and make sure casing is firmly sealed in the borehole with no gaps. Damaged casings can destabilize the well walls and lead to collapse.
Pump and Components
Your well pump, pipes, wiring, pressure switches, storage tank and other components are examined for leaks, abnormal wear, blockages, or other signs of malfunction. Flow rate and pressure output are also tested.
Water Quality Testing
Samples of untreated well water are tested for common contaminants including bacteria like E. coli, metals like arsenic, and minerals affecting properties like hardness. This helps reveal any pollutants or changes needing treatment.
Source Depth and Output
Measurements are taken of static water level and pumping water levels. Output volume is measured through drawdown tests. These figures help determine well efficiency and if the source aquifer is stable. Dropping levels can indicate problems.
Surface Conditions Around Wellhead
Ideally, the wellhead should be raised above ground level and have a surrounding dirt mound sloping away from it to allow drainage. Excessive vegetation should be cleared. Any needed modifications will be noted.
Best Practices for Maintaining Your Well
Professional inspections help keep your well system in top shape, but some regular at-home maintenance steps also contribute to your well’s longevity between visits from the inspector. Here are some best practices all well owners should follow for keeping their water supply clean and healthy.
Watch for Signs of Contamination
Pay attention for any changes in your untreated well water’s taste, odor or color, which could indicate new bacteria or pollution. Also immediately contact an inspector if anyone becomes ill after drinking your water. Don’t wait for the next scheduled inspection.
Keep Hazardous Chemicals Away
Never use or store pesticides, paints, motor oil or other hazardous products anywhere near your well, even if sealed tightly. Keep a buffer zone of at least 50 feet if possible. Also properly dispose of any household hazardous waste rather than dumping down drains.
Maintain Proper Landscaping
Keep plants and grass trimmed back at least 10 feet away from your wellhead. Their roots can damage well housing. Also ensure the wellhead remains properly elevated above grade and surrounded by a mounded earth pad for drainage.
Inspect Well Cover Condition
Periodically check that your well cap sits squarely on the housing and seals tightly. Repair any cracks or gaps that could allow contaminants in. A loose fitting or warped cap should be replaced. Also ensure vents are screened.
Monitor Storage Tanks
If your well system includes pressurized storage tanks, keep an eye out for any sudden drops in pressure which may indicate leaks or punctures. Check tank valves and gauges to make sure all components are functioning efficiently.
Change Sediment Filter Regularly
If your system has a whole house sediment filter, change the filter cartridge per the manufacturer's recommendations, usually every 3-6 months. Test pressure and flow rate after changing the filter to ensure it’s not excessively clogged.
Shock Chlorinate Annually
Using heavy doses of chlorine to “shock” your well periodically helps kill any bacteria buildup inside the well or piping. This should be done at least annually and whenever a water test shows bacteria present.
Protecting Your Well During a Flood
The Tampa Bay area receives over 50 inches of rainfall yearly on average, making flooding a recurring threat for homeowners after major tropical storms or hurricanes. Taking the right precautions before and after flooding can reduce the risk of well water contamination.
Have Your Well Inspected
Contact a professional inspector to visit your well before major storms whenever possible. They can ensure the wellhead is watertight, pumps are functioning, and components are anchored securely. This may help prevent damage or flooding debris entering the well.
Disinfect the Well
Mix an chlorine bleach solution according to health department instructions and shock chlorinate your well. This kills any bacteria lurking inside before floodwaters can contaminate it further. Remember to flush the system thoroughly afterward.
Extend Casing Above Flood Level
Ideally, have your well casing elevated at least 18-24 inches above the highest expected flood level in your area. This reduces the chance of floodwaters directly entering the well system. An inspector can recommend appropriate casing height.
Weight Down Well Cover
If floodwaters could reach the wellhead, place a heavy concrete block on the well cap to weigh it down so it can’t float off during high water. This will keep the cap sealed in place.
Stock Up on Bottled Water
Keep at least a several day supply of bottled water on hand in case flooding knocks out power to your well pump or makes the well water unsafe to drink temporarily. Don’t take chances by drinking potentially contaminated water.
Do Not Drink Well Water Until Tested
After major flooding, do not use your well water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, or any other consumption until it has been comprehensively tested for bacteria, chemicals, and other contaminants. Expect to need disinfection and filtration.
Taking proper well water safety measures before, during and after flood events can significantly reduce the headaches and health risks associated with a compromised water supply. As soon as possible after major flooding, arrange to have your well completely re-inspected and your water retested. Rely on bottled water until you can confirm your well water is clean and uncontaminated. Stay safe!
Safe, clean well water is absolutely essential for your family's health and wellbeing. Don't take any chances with your water supply. Always hire a reputable, experienced professional well inspector to conduct comprehensive inspections and testing at least annually, or more often if you have any specific concerns. Following their recommendations for repairs, maintenance and water treatment installation will provide crucial protection for your groundwater source and plumbing system against contamination.
For Tampa area homeowners relying on well water, Aqua-Wise offers complete inspection and testing services, top-rated water treatment solutions to address any issues detected, and 24/7 emergency support. Schedule Your FREE Water Test Today: 727-236-7161 or visit us online to book your appointment: https://www.aqua-wise.com/book-online-free-water-test
Sources: Florida Department of Health: http://hillsborough.floridahealth.gov/ Florida Department of Environmental Protection: https://floridadep.gov/ National Groundwater Association: https://www.ngwa.org/