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Name: Karen T.
Status: Other
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: September 15, 2004


Question:
We have a 100+ year old, hand dug well for our drinking water. We have never had a problem with our water, actually it was probably some of the best water I have ever had. However, lately after drinking it, I seem to get a metallic taste in my mouth. I am the only one in the family that this is effecting, however I also drink much more water than anyone else here. As you may know, the last several years we have had drought conditions and our well would go dry every year about this time, however, this year we have had an abundance of rain, the well is very full. Could there be some natural chemical that is causing the taste, or a medical condition?



Replies:
I would suggest you have this well tested to determine what is in the water that you are drinking. Metallic tastes can be a result of many different things.

Depending upon the construction of this well it could be susceptible to surface contamination. Have the water tested by a professional testing facility.

Steven Miller


A change in well water taste could be caused by large changes in the water level brought on by cycles of drought or by surface water contamination from flooding. It could also be caused by chemical contamination, so I would advise that you have your water tested. I believe that most state departments of health or environment will generally test private wells such as yours at a moderate cost. I suggest you check with them regarding your problem.

Andy Johnson


Karen: At the risk of sounding as though I am taking the alarmist's position, I would suggest that you have your water tested, either by purchasing a self-test kit (available over the Internet for around 15-25 dollars) or by contacting a state or local regulatory authority which concerns itself with ground water quality. The metallic taste is almost certainly the result of higher metal ion concentrations in your ground water; the only question is whether the metal in question is something fairly common as an iron compound (iron oxide, for example), or something potentially more serious as arsenic, which is a known carcinogen.

The situation you have described is something I am aware is fairly common. Your well water is derived from the soil/bedrock (depending on where you live and how deep your well is), and as such, is in contact with an array of minerals. Some of those minerals (calcium carbonate, or "lime," for example) are readily dissolved in the water and are extracted from the ground to become unpleasant additions to your tap water. Other minerals, however, are not easily dissolved and remain in the ground. Water can sometimes act as a chemical barrier that prevents those minerals from undergoing certain chemical changes which alter their solubility (how easily they dissolve in water). So, as long as the water is present in the ground and fills the pore spaces around the minerals, they resist chemical alteration and stay safely in place (and out of your tap water). However, in times of drought, the location of the water table may change and expose those minerals to dry conditions. With the protective water barrier removed, those minerals may undergo chemical changes which make them more soluble. When the drought ends and the water table returns to its former level, those chemically altered minerals then dissolve in the water and are carried out of the ground and into your household.

That you are the only person tasting whatever it is that is now in your water may be due to your frequent water consumption, or (more likely) to a relatively higher taste sensitivity. It is probably not a medical condition, or at least not a problematic one; though I must admit to being a geologist and not a medical doctor.

I have heard that drought conditions have played a serious role in elevating the ground water arsenic levels in places like Texas, Florida, and Bangladesh. The EPA recently tightened its standards on arsenic levels in drinking water, so a great deal of research has been devoted to discovering how arsenic gets into water, and more importantly, how it can be efficiently removed. You may want to consider contacting the EPA for advice on testing, etc. I hope your situation is simply due to good old fashion iron oxide (although, too much of that probably isn't a good thing either).

Scott J. Badham
Department of Geology and Geophysics
University of Wyoming


I do not know why you would be the only member of your family to experience this off-taste. However, it would be prudent to have your well water tested for heavy metals. Your state health department can direct you to the appropriate laboratory. Private wells should be checked periodically for contamination since you have no way of knowing what is in your water "naturally" that poses a possible health risk.

Vince Calder


Without knowing anything about the ground into which your well is drilled, I would say that it is entirely possible that conditions have changed, and that your water has been affected. It's also possible that the water is the same but something about your equipment (pipes, pump, etc.) has changed. I would do two things: get the well inspected and the water tested, and see a doctor. Since you are the only one affected, you may be more sensitive to the taste, but I believe there are some medical conditions which can cause a metallic taste in your mouth (I am not a doctor--I have just heard it).

Good luck,
Pat Rowe



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