Week 41: Private Well Update

Our lot is located on a private drive which doesn’t have any public water service running to it.  Because of that everyone in our mini-neighborhood has their own private well.  We’ve never owned (or lived in) a house with a private well, but my aunt and cousin just built homes and they each needed a well…so I guess it’s common.  It’s a pretty straight forward process…hire a driller, hit water, send it to the house.  Or so I thought.

After drilling you need to get the water tested for bacteria…yep, sounds like a good idea – don’t want to be drinking ick.  And with that, they also test for nitrates and arsenic.  We paid extra and ran a complete IOC (inorganic chemical) test to show us what exactly was in the water which tested for everything under the sun.  Well, the test went really well, except that we had an elevated level of arsenic.  Arsenic is a natural element which comes from rocks.  And on the eastside where we’re building it’s pretty prevalent.  In fact, all of the homes on our street have arsenic in their well water.  Shouldn’t be a big deal though, just thousands of dollars later and you can have a full house water filtration system installed.

Over the past couple of months we’ve been dealing with all of this.  First we hired Carl Garrison from Garrison Engineering to design the water filtration system for us.  It took a couple of weeks, and after consulting with him on the system maintenance that we were willing to do, we had the filtration system designed.  He was great to work with and I would definitely recommend hiring him if you’re in the need of any filtration system.

Pages from Well Arsenic Treatment Design - Garrison Engineering 12-2015

Water filtration design for our well water by Carl Garrison.

Then we hired Meadow Lake Water Treatment to install the system that Carl designed.  It took a while to get all of the parts and pieces ordered and arrived, but after a few weeks all of it showed up and they installed the system without any hitches.  Since then we had the water retested and there’s no trace of any arsenic.  SUCCESS!!!

Now that we have satisfactory test results, we can finally install our septic system.  That’ll be the final thing we need to do and then we can finish up our site grading.


Here’s the crazy thing though…if we didn’t apply to drill our well before November 15th, 2015 we wouldn’t be able to use our well water!!  King County has recently changed the way they allow wells to be dug.  Before you can even get a building permit, the well must be dug (they give you 6 months to do so) and it needs to have satisfactory lab results…make sense.  But, if the well comes up with an elevated arsenic level greater than 0.1mg/l (10 parts per billion)…YOU CAN’T USE IT!  They won’t even let you install a treatment system any more.  Isn’t that crazy?  You can fully treat the water and make it 100% safe to drink but they won’t allow you to do that any longer.

King County came out with an industry letter (below) which explains the changes “treatment for arsenic level exceedances will not be an option” and even states in there, “We understand that these changes will have profound impacts for some property owners and developers, especially those in areas of the county with elevated arsenic levels.”  That’s so crazy!  If we wouldn’t have put our application in prior to November 15th, we wouldn’t have been able to build because of the elevated arsenic levels and we would have been out the money we paid for the lot.  It would have been undevelopable until public water is run in our street (which may never happen).  Alternatively, I guess you could keep drilling deeper and deeper until you found an aquifer without the arsenic…but that’s such a risky guessing game.  We drilled down to 350′ deep to a confined aquifer – but what if you never find another aquifer?  Then you’ve wasted tens of thousands of dollars drilling for nothing.

If any of you are interested in purchasing land in King County – and if it doesn’t have public water readily available, I would definitely make the seller drill a well and have it tested before purchasing the land.  Otherwise, who knows if you can even build on it!

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