There is a task that I have been putting off for a long time. Months, in fact.
When my plumbing fixtures were first installed, I was supposed to shock my well and all of the components of my water system with bleach.
I have been incredibly resistant to doing this. I mean, I shoulda done it back at the beginning of February, and it's now heading into the middle of October.
I have some empathy for myself in my resistance. I have some good reasons:
- I love my well and I long ago learned that you shouldn't pour bleach down the throat of something you love.
- I have never done this (or anything like it) before. It feels new and unknown and therefore complicated and scary.
- It requires planning, equipment and supplies.
- It requires time and effort.
- Did I mention that it involves bleach? I very rarely use bleach for ANYTHING. It is not my go-to for ANY task or purpose. I rarely even have bleach in my house. I don't like the way it smells. I don't like what it does, I just: ugh, yuck, icky, guh, blech.
And, I've decided it needs to get done. Just once. Just for the sake of doing it and having it done.
A note about my water quality
My water is great. I've had it tested. It doesn't contain any nasty chemicals and it doesn't contain any e. coli. It does contain choliforms, the benign bacteria that are just, you know, in the world.
A while back, it was deemed acceptable to have a certain number in choliforms in your well water in Nova Scotia. That number was dropped and dropped again, and currently there is a zero tolerance policy for choliforms.
Which is probably why most people have problems keeping a healthy population of friendly bacteria in their gut biome. But that's a rant for another day.
I've had my water tested for chemical impurities too and it is aces. Basically, I won the lottery of dug wells – I have lots of water and it's good water.
But, the presence of choliforms is deemed to be a red flag that my well is at risk of being contaminated by e. coli. And because my water tested positive for them, I have been living under my own personal boil water advisory since I moved into my cabin in February.
I have decided to accept that my water system should be cleaned out, at least once, to ascertain that my well is not compromised or at risk of further contamination, and to get rid of anything that might have gotten introduced when the pump and other plumbing was installed. And I would also like to be able to serve my water to guests without long explanations about why I'm giving them lukewarm, previously-boiled or bottled water.
There is a whole publication about wells for Nova Scotian residents which can be found here
, for anyone who is interested. Essentially, the process of "cleaning" a well is called shock chlorination and it involves putting bleach in the well, circulating it through all of the components of the water system, and then discharging it, trying to get as little as possible into the septic system, which really doesn't want to have all of its bacteria killed.
I have decided on one additional step, which involves patting myself on the back and eating cake.
Here are some photos:
|Portrait of the blogger as a reluctant adult complying with provincial water quality guidelines. |
|It took approximately FOREVER to try to clear the smell of bleach from my very low-flow bathroom tap. |
|At least it was a gorgeous fall day. |
|And my hose reached far enough to follow the instructions to circulate the bleached water for an hour in a loop between my cabin and the well. |
|Securing the well cap. |
|Salinger and I had one of our very rare arguments that day. He thought he should be allowed to lap up the bleach water that I was pouring on the driveway (to divert it from the septic system) while I thought that was a terrible idea. We worked out a compromise that included a combination of imprisoning him in the house, yelling at him each time he escaped and approached the puddles on the driveway and hosing away the bleach water with fresh water. Salinger was displeased with the whole process, and I don't blame him. It was no fun for anyone.|
|I should have gotten them to decorate it: "Happy shock chlorination" is probably not something that gets written on cakes very often. If ever. |
|I do have a thing for badass, cheap, white bakery cake with icing that doesn't even pretend to have butter in it. And doesn't it look nice (is that the word I'm looking for?) on my beloved Fish's Eddy Manhattan skyline plate? |
I'm not going to lie to you. I hated every minute of this entire process. Even the cake didn't really help. I felt so anxious while I was doing this that I felt somewhat unhinged. I had every irrational fear (and maybe a few rational ones): that I was doing it all wrong, that I was poisoning myself and my beloved cat, that I was damaging my pump, my hot water heater, my pipes and every single element of my water system, that it was a mistake to do it in the first place.
It's been a week and while I've relaxed a great deal, I'm still not feeling settled about it. I still get mild whiffs of chlorine some of the time, at some of my taps and keep fighting off "always/never" thinking (I will always
smell bleach in my water. I will never
feel comfortable drinking it). I have
taken a couple of showers without feeling like I've gotten chemical burns. I'm still not drinking my water, though, even boiled. It just feels too gross.
And that's funny because I lived in cities for so many years and drank chlorinated water without even batting an eye.
I am owning that this process made me feel completely not rational. And that was hard.
It reminds me that I put a lot of effort into organizing my life in ways that allow me to feel rational most of the time. I've been thinking this week especially about how that is a luxury afforded to me by privilege. And how incredibly grateful I feel that I have that luxury. Feeling that anxious all of the time would be agonizing. I guess I would get through it if I absolutely had to, but I am very, very thankful that I do not.
I took a water sample into the hospital on Thursday and should get results next week. Let's hope, after all that, that this at least accomplished what it was supposed to accomplish.
Update (October 17): Got my first water test results back and my water is zero for both choliforms and e. coli. Sweet.