I love the fall. It has to be my favorite time of year, although I like all seasons. However, in the fall, my allergies are not active, there are few or no bugs to bother me, I go hunting with good friends, and of course there are the fall colors, crisp mornings and beautiful skies.
Fall is also a melancholy time of year. We put our garden to bed, winterize the lawnmowers and garden equipment, get the snow clearing equipment ready for work, and check our log house for possible air leaks, etc.
One of the regular things we do this time of year (and also in the spring) is shock chlorinate our water well. What? you say. I have a problem with a polluted well? No, not really.
Living in the country is great. My wife and I have been doing it for nearly 30 years now. However, there are things we must do that most city dwellers would not understand. Our potable water comes from a 110 foot well. The water is good quality but it does come from a rock layer, or aquifer that is probably charged with water from somewhere in the Rocky Mountains to our west. Water passing through rock does not remain unaffected by that rock. It picks up minerals and ions; and if it goes through a layer of coal, it may pick up a bacteria that concentrates sulphur. The bacteria does not affect human health, but it does cause the water to have a slight sulphur odor and the bacteria, if left undisturbed, can eat through copper pipes (by excreting an acid) and fixtures. Therefore, we have to treat our well every six months to remove and set back the accumulation of the bacteria in the well, pump, pressure tank and water distribution system. Shock chlorination is how it is done. This procedure is also effective against iron bacteria, which concentrates iron in a water system. We had trouble with that bacteria early on (it usually comes from a not clean drill bit used by the well drilling company), but our first shock chlorination cleaned that up and we have never seen it again.
In shock chlorination, many litres of household bleach are poured down the well, pumped through the pressure and distribution system and let sit in that system for up to 48 hours. The longer you leave the bleach in the system, the better the effect against the bacteria. We just did that yesterday, and are now waiting out the 48 hour period. Of course, before we shocked the well, we stored water for daily use.
So, now, we have to remind ourselves not to flush toilets (“if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down”), instead of using the taps, use the buckets by the sinks, and to sponge bathe. Where did we learn about all this? The Alberta Government, on its web site, has instructions that we have modified for our own situation. The government recommends regular shock chlorination for all water wells. It’s a pain but at least we are keeping our equipment and water clean.
If you think living in the country means not having to pay such things as water and sewage services, well, you are right. We don’t have to pay someone else to do those services, but we do have to pay to provide those services ourselves.
So, what’s wrong with that?
P.S. Brown Water
One of the reasons why people are coming to this post is that after shock-chlorinating their wells, the water turns brown. The brown is the iron in the water that has oxidized as a result of the chlorination. Normally, the iron in water is in ion form and does not display itself until it combines with oxygen and forms common rust which turns the water reddish-brown. If you have a particulate in-line filtre (mine is just passed the pressure tank) or a water softener, the filtre or conditioner will take out the rust. But if you don’t have such a filtre, the brown water will remain until the oxidized-iron water is eventually replaced with water where the iron has not yet oxidized.