Why Is My Well Water Black?

More than 43 million people draw their drinking water from domestic (private) wells, which amounts to roughly 15 percent of the entire U.S. population. Considering the considerable chunk of folks who rely on well water, there are bound to be issues every now and again. One of these potential issues is black-tinged water. 

Almost any homeowner would probably be horrified to find black water flowing from the faucets in their home, especially if they use it as drinking water. However, although the discoloration looks disconcerting, it isn’t always a serious problem. We compiled some information about black-tinged well water to help you troubleshoot the issue, so keep reading to learn more!

What Does It Mean When Well Water Is Black?

Your well water can be black for several reasons, some more serious than others. For example, it may be as simple as harmless minerals in the water. Or, it could be something more serious, like a broken pipe or mold. 

Mineral Deposits

Hard water is common in many homes, but especially so in those drawing from private wells. In hard water, you usually find a high content of minerals, like calcium and magnesium. Aside from these two minerals, you may also find manganese and iron, which are widely occurring minerals found in water systems. 

When they come into contact with oxygen, these minerals can produce black specks, which hang out in your glass of water. In small, trace amounts, these substances are harmless to people and are actually essential for our health. That said, these minerals can be problematic, as they can stain plumbing fixtures, laundry, and dishes. 

Additionally, they leave unappealing specks in your water and a lingering, unpleasant taste. 

It’s easy to tell if the black specks consist of oxidized minerals. Simply rub a few of the bits together between your fingers. If they leave a black, powdery residue, it’s probably excess minerals built up in the water system. High contents of these minerals can also make the water’s surface oily-like and cause brown, orange, or red stains on your sinks and bathtubs. 

If you think the black specks and oily discolored spots are due to high mineral content, contact a certified lab to conduct a test. If the test comes back with high levels of these minerals, simply install a water filtration system or water softener in your home that targets these particular minerals. These act as sediment filters, which remove the sediment from the water, leaving you with clean, better-tasting water. 

Alternatively, reach out to a professional to have your well treated to remove the minerals from the system. They’ll usually clean the well using chlorine or other oxidizing agents. 

Granular Activated Charcoal

Walter Filtration System

If you have a water filtration system in your home and notice black specks in your water, they might be particles of granular-activated charcoal. Manufacturers of many home water filter systems use GAC as a filtration agent in the system’s cartridge. 

Small amounts of GAC are harmless to humans, as the substance is comparable to medical charcoal. That said, the presence of GAC tells you the system isn’t working as it should. So, make sure to replace the cartridge according to the manufacturer’s instructions, which should correct the problem. 

Plumbing Issues

Old, rusty water pipes can be the culprit of your water discoloration. The rust in the system can potentially leak into the water, where it oxidizes and turns color. It can tinge the water orange, red, brown, or black. 

Usually, this is only a problem if you have old steel, copper, iron, or galvanized plumbing in your home. If the black particles are irregular in shape and size, they might point toward rusty plumbing. 

Old Water Pipes

You might notice they only flare up when the water first starts running, then they slowly dissipate and stop coming out after a few minutes of water flow. If you only notice the specks with hot water, the corrosion likely originates in your hot water heaters. 

Minimal amounts of rust shouldn’t pose a risk to your health, but there is a potential risk of lead poisoning. It’s best to stop drinking the water until you have the issue resolved by a professional, whether that means replacing sections of the pipe or repairing/replacing your water heater. 

Mold and Mildew

Over time, mold and mildew may have the chance to take hold within your plumbing system. Private wells are more susceptible to this, as the caps tend to go loose or deteriorate, allowing mold to take hold. Since most people don’t regularly visit their well house unless something goes wrong, you might not notice a broken or loose cap on your well until it becomes a problem. 

Mold and mildew can turn your water black, which can become a risk to your health. Additionally, mold in your water can spread to other areas of your home, like your furniture, foundation, etc. 

Call a plumber immediately if you believe mold or mildew is causing the discoloration in your water source. Although some folks offer advice for doing the project yourself, having a professional handle scenarios like these is best. 

Clay, Silt, And Sand

Water Filter

Tiny particles of clay, sand, and silt might appear in well water pumped from private wells. The materials may leach into the well, which can result in a few different problems. It can create an appearance of murky or muddy water, depending on how much is in the water supply. 

Clay, silt, and sand particles don’t pose a health risk, but they do leave granules in your water, which can damage your well pump and appliances that use water. To test if the black particles are sand, clay, or silt, simply fill a cup with water, then let it sit for a few minutes. If the particles drop to the bottom, it may be a combination of these particles. 

If you’re unfamiliar with repairing well issues, we recommend enlisting the help of a professional to resolve the issue. 

Is Black Well Water Safe To Drink?

Ultimately, it depends on the cause of the discoloration in your well water. If there’s a broken pipe allowing mud, soil, and human or animal waste to seep into your water, then it can make you sick. However, drinking it shouldn’t be a problem if the darker tint is due to trace amounts of harmless natural minerals. 

If you’re unsure what’s causing the tinted shade in your well water, get it checked out by a professional or use a water testing kit to determine if the water is safe to drink. If it isn’t, you’ll have to get to the root of the problem before the water is safe to consume.

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