|Abstract: ||Unlike municipal water supplies, provincial regulations do not require systematic testing of domestic well water, which may adversely impact local residents should contamination occur. Private wells are typically shallow relative to municipal wells, and thus, are particularly vulnerable to sources of surficial contamination if preferential recharge pathways such as natural fractures or faulty seals are present.
In order to determine the relative importance of well seal integrity as a preferential pathway, a practical detection method was developed based on infiltrometry. This method successfully detected faulty well seals in a wide range of geological settings across Canada, including: Hobbema, Alberta; Lindsay, Ontario; and Chelsea, Québec. It was most successful in areas of minimal heterogeneity and where the surficial geology is composed of fine-grained sediments.
The community of Chelsea (Québec) was also the primary study site to examine a range of factors affecting water quality including physical characteristics, faulty well seals, other anthropogenic activities and seasonality. Water samples were collected over a period of 14 months and analyzed for bacteria and major-ion chemistry. The results show that the consideration of physical features alone is not enough to predict vulnerability in the study area. Seasonal fluctuations in ionic concentrations (e.g. ionic strength, NO3-N and Cl-) and coliform bacteria are observed and result from disperse and rapid recharge events. Multivariate analysis techniques (e.g. principal components analysis and hierarchical cluster analysis) demonstrate that preferential recharge pathways and anthropogenic activities, such as domestic effluents affect the groundwater quality. The data and findings of this study were used to assist in the design of a probabilistic risk assessment model based on the Poisson distribution.
This study demonstrates the complexity and the challenges related to bacterial contamination in drilled wells. In spite of these challenges, this analysis was useful as a baseline to assess the impact of anthropogenic activities, and may be used in future studies to assist municipalities in the evaluation and protection of groundwater supplies.|