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Mountain Springs

You are much more likely to get Cryptosporidium, Giardia, enteric viruses, and toxic chemicals from a mountain spring, than from most other groundwater sources. Mountain springs emerge, by virtue of the fact that they are located in geologically rich and chemically diverse areas, with some of the most toxic, crystal clear, tasteless, odorless and colorless, contaminants known to man. Then, once on the surface the water is often exposed to animal and human activity that contaminates it with biological agents.

I remember when we used to drive up to North Georgia as a family, there were areas where pipes emerged from the rocks on the side of the road, and people would stop to fill their water bottles, milk jugs, and other containers with water from these "mountain springs". Its a good thing we couldn't carry back enough to last us a year, because some of that water made people very sick. And a year's worth of lead, arsenic, mercury, or other mineral contaminant may have caused some serious long-term damage.

Some mountain springs have excellent, good-tasting, and contaminant free water. They are worth the return trips to fill drinking water bottles. The problem is that we don't know which ones are and which ones are not, and it simply isn't worth the health risk to guess.

Somehow, over the years, that myth of "purity" of mountain spring water has never been smashed. Friends have gotten sick drinking this water and everyone who hikes in the backcountry knows better than to drink it directly from the source, but the general public still sees it as a commodity to be desired, and will pay handsomely to get it. (Please understand that bottled spring water must pass certain tests of purity before it can be sold to the public, so unlike roadside and natural springs, there are some safeguards in place to keep people from getting sick. But even this water must only meet the EPA maximum contaminant limits to be salable.)

In any case, if your source of water is a "mountain spring" or mountain "stream" or other ground or surface source, especially in areas like North Georgia, please be advised that without testing and purification, you are taking a big risk. Dogs, cats, bears, deer, foxes, raccoons, opossums, cattle, horses, pigs (wild and domestic), birds, and a variety of other creatures use that water as a toilet or bathing area. And they know less about keeping the water clean than most city folks.

So test it first, purify it if it needs purification, and only then, drink it. Not only will it leave a better taste in your mouth, but your body will thank you over and over again.

Stuff to look for:

Coliforms

E. coli (or fecal coliforms)

Microscopic organisms - parasites like "Crypto" and Giardia

Temperature

Conductivity (electrical conductivity)

pH

Nitrate

Total Dissolved Solids

Magnesium

Turbidity

Copper

Aluminum

Chromium

Cadmium

Zinc

Fluoride

Molybdenum

Nitrogen

Nitrate

Sulfate

Chloride

Arsenic

Lead

Mercury

Annual retesting is a must, because groundwater flow is constantly changing, especially with all the new building, well drilling, old wells being closed etc. So the water this year may be fine, but in a few weeks you may be getting very different water from your source. Annual testing gives you some assurance that your water is still safe. And testing is available and affordable!!! Even 100 years ago it was neither available nor affordable and people HAD to take their chances by drinking and hoping they would not get sick. That's not the case anymore. There really is no good excuse for not testing the water you wish to drink or serve your family.

The EPA recommends Annual Testing

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Copyright 2002 Appalachian Water and Soil Analysis, Inc.
Last modified by Dr. Eberhard Essich dr_e@awsa.info: 03/22/17