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Ecologist Shares On Well Water And The Steps To Cleaner Water

Jul 11, 2008
Renegade Water Secrets with Jim McMahon, ecologist and founder of Sweetwater LLC .

Kevin: Now, we haven't talked about well water and a lot of people who I talk to about water and I don't know as much as you do, but I tell them some of these things and they say, "Well, I'm on well water and that's okay." So why don't you talk a little bit about some of the things that you can find in well water and how you can protect from those.

Jim: Well water is a reflection of the land around the well. So well water can be terrific or it can be horrible. The Midwest of this country is known as the lymphoma belt because of the application of herbicides. Pretty soon, a couple of months from now, we're going to see those farmers out in the fields and they're going to be spraying, spraying, spraying. Then it's going to rain. That water's going to go down into the ground and it's going to carry all those herbicides and pesticides into those wells.

So it all depends and then I've got people in the Rocky Mountains. People test their well water and there's arsenic, there's lead, there's fluoride and guess what. How did we settle the Rocky Mountains? Miners came out here for minerals. So whatever is going on in the landscape around you is going to be reflected in the water. Remember, water's a universal solvent. It's going to be dissolving the soils or the rock that are around you.

Now, a lot of well water is really wonderful. A lot of well water is not. Taste is not a good indicator. You really should get a thorough test. I sell a test called, The Water Check. It test for 75 parameters for $137 and you can add herbicides and pesticides to that for another $30. Get a good profile of your well and then you know how to treat it.

Kevin: Right.

Jim: The other thing that happens is people might have a well and so they'll buy a water softener. They say I have a well, so I need a water softener. Until you test that water, you have no way of knowing whether you need anything or not. It's no different than the guy who goes into the store and buys one of these little pitcher filters and figures they're covered. You need to test your water and then put in the treatments that deal with the contaminants that you find.

Kevin: With the well water, should you be testing it once every five years, ten years or something like that?

Jim: It really isn't a time thing. People like to come up with time and so maybe five years, but really, I would look for changes in the watershed. You have an agricultural community that suddenly becomes suburban.

Kevin: Okay.

Jim: That's a common transition. While you may move from one set of problems to another, from herbicides to leaking septics with nitrate, or lawns are a very common source of herbicides, because like Chemlawn, who even thought of naming that company that, Chemlawn. They come in and spray, so you have this green lawn with nothing but bluegrass. Those chemicals are getting washed down into your well.

So I would look for changes in the landscape. New developments can affect your water. Is there a new industry around? Anything going on that might affect the water table.

Kevin: I remember you told me once about a family who had really high levels of uranium.

Jim: Yeah. I shouldn't laugh. I never heard back from that guy, but his family had discovered this after many years of not testing their well and people had been dying in the family. The family had grown up with this well and they'd been dropping like flies and nobody knew why and then finally they tested the well and it had very high levels of uranium.

Kevin: Wow.

Jim: Then this guy needed - and sometimes I'll tell people and of course, they don't take me seriously, but I'll tell people to move.

Kevin: Really?

Jim: There's certain things that you can't fix.

Kevin: Right, because that's not only in the water, but it's causing reactions with everything else.

Jim: Yeah. Radon is another. There are certain things and I've got a library on my website at http://www.cleanairpurewater.com/resource_library.html. I just have links to all these articles about different contaminants. One of them is a study by a group of scientists about the things that you shouldn't get any of.

Kevin: Oh, cool.

Jim: One of them is radon. I remember when radon came out, everybody was reacting. Here's the EPA. One more telling us now we can't breathe radon. Where's this coming from? Well, radon can be in water as well as your basement. If it's in your basement it may very well be in your water and just inhaling small bits of radon can be very dangerous.

Kevin: Yeah and in the northeast I think something that's very prevalent.

Jim: Yeah and again, it's easy to remove with a good whole house carbon filter, or you can aerate it. Another issue is this hydrogen sulfide, that rotten egg smell. For years people thought that is just an aesthetic concern and I get great customers. I had one guy whose daughters were insisting that he do something, because they would smell like that going to school.

Kevin: Wow.

Jim: Yeah. This guy was like, "I don't smell anything." So he's having this major social impact on their lives, but EPA has recently come out and said that in fact, hydrogen sulfide is not just an aesthetic concern, but is actually dangerous. We learn. As time goes by we learn.

Kevin: It's almost like we learn the things that we knew were bad for us anyway.

Jim: Yeah, intuitively.

Kevin: Right.

Jim: That's right.

Kevin: Say someone right now is listening to this call and they're interested in getting better water. What's the first and second step?

Jim: My opinion is the first thing you do is write down your goals in an unbiased setting. You write down what do you want. Do you want healthy water? Do you want water that tastes good? Are you concerned about mineral deposits that are building up on the shower doors? Because when you write down what your goals are that's going to drive your decision making later on.

I never make decisions for my customers. If some guy calls and he says, "Jim, all I care about is my wife is on my case about the marking on the shower doors." Then he needs a water softener. So sit down with the family, or the decision makers who are deciding what it is that you want to accomplish. Then, number two, look at your water report. See what's in the water. Then you can go to my guide or another location and say these are the things that I need to get out of the water. Here's the treatment I need and then go buy that treatment.

Kevin: One thing that I always talk about and something that we did with our water is that we got something that was sufficient with our budget at the time and then we upgraded and I think that's a good approach to take, too, if you are concerned about your water. Would you agree?

Jim: Yeah. A lot of people will buy these expensive filters in the grocery store. I won't name brand names, but they hook on the faucet, or there's a little pitcher. Those might be a good intermediate step. They are not a good long term step. The filters that hook on your faucet, just like a carbon filter without KDF, they've been shown to provide breeding grounds for bacteria. They can colonize and live on the surface. So now, all of a sudden you may be removing some chlorine, but you're actually drinking more in the way of bacteria. If you do that sort of thing, you've got to change them out really regularly and stay on top of it. So again, it seems cheap at first, but to do it right it's not.

Kevin: Here's a question that I wasn't even planning on asking. What about cleaning out the tubes? Is there any time that you need to flush the tubes with chlorine or bleach or something like that to get stuff out if there's organic material building up in the tubes?

Jim: Yeah and what I recommend that's in the manual of the Kitchen Defender is when you want to clean it, do it when you're changing the filters and go to the store and just buy some hydrogen peroxide at the grocery store, 99 cents. Take the canisters off. Fill each one up with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. So you'll have three canisters full of hydrogen peroxide and then run that to the faucet and you can tell when the faucet is discharging hydrogen peroxide and then turn it off and let it sit for an hour or two and then just empty it out and put your new filters in.

Kevin: Got you.

Jim: That will clean out any organic build up. It does not have the toxic byproducts that bleach does.

Kevin: Right.

Kevin: What about different companies and looking at a company that you know you're going to be able to get a filter in five or ten years?

Jim: You mean longevity?

Kevin: Yes.

Jim: I think there's some validity to that. People still ask me if I'm still going to be in business and I tell them that I've got kids to put through college and I don't hide my manufacturer from anybody, so they can always go there if they couldn't find me. We're in an era where - this isn't filters, but Starbucks turned around and are closing stores, because people aren't going to pay $3.50 for a cup of coffee. I never would have guessed that six months ago.

Kevin: Right.

Jim: Never ever. Big companies are being acquired all the time. One of the equipment suppliers that I use was acquired by 3M, because 3M is looking at water. There's going to be a lot of consolidation in the water business I think. Companies may come and go. Technologies are going to change. So maybe I think you'll be able to get filters for your system. You could probably find something locally. It won't be as good as what you could get from me, because I use a unique set.

Kevin: Right.

Jim: The other thing, if you start dealing with me, in three years I may be saying Kevin, I'm thinking about ozone, or hydroxical radicals. I've got this thing that if we add this onto your system I think we're going to get a better level of protection and so we're going to watch the water business, watch our knowledge, watch the technologies and see what develops. So it's not stagnant. It's ever changing.

Kevin: I personally think it's nice to have someone hold my hand, because the amount of research, there are other people out there too, but 30 years of environmental research, come on. I don't have that and I'm researching everything else in terms of health and so it's very valuable to go to a person to and say this is what my water looks like, what do you think, what are your recommendations and then decide if it's a fit or not.
About the Author
Kevin Gianni the host of "Renegade Health Show" - a fun & informative daily health show that is changing the perception of health across the world. He is an internationally known health advocate, author,& film consultant. He has helped thousands of people in over 85 countries though online health teleseminars. He is also the creator and co-author of "The Busy Person's Fitness Guide."
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