Last night as I left work, I told my fellow colleagues that we were staying Boulder last night because we were “shocking” our well.  To which I received some raised highbrows and baffled looks on people’s faces.  And I have to confess until five years ago, I would have been one of those people.  I grew up in the midwest suburbs outside of St. Louis, where things were provided like trash pick-up, public water and sewer, etc.  And you paid a monthly bill to get those services provided to you.  I didn’t know anything about septic holding tanks or well systems or how they worked.  I first got acquainted with this when we were negotiating the settlement on the purchase of our Nederland home, and our realtor told us we needed to get the well tested.  The well tested for what? was my first thought.  Turns out wells can be breeding grounds for all kinds of bacteria because of the leaves and decaying matter on the ground that break down and seep into the well.  This process is accelerated when you have big flood events with lots of debris washed across the ground like we did last September in the big flood.  Bacteria can be fairly harmless that doesn’t really make you sick or you can get forms of bacteria like e. coli that can be very dangerous.  So most mountain residents that have well systems shock their wells once a year to insure healthy drinking water.  When we were buying our house, we did have our well tested and it was positive for coliform bacteria (not as deadly as e. coli, but not good either), so we required that the well be shocked and re-tested before completing the purchase of our house.

You might ask, what does “shocking” a well entail?  Well, despite visions of a defibrillator and electrical current, it doesn’t involve too much.  Basically, you buy some Chlorox chlorine bleach, figure out how much capacity your well holds, and combine five gallons of water with 1-2 gallons of bleach.  Your pour it down the well, wait a few hours, run the indoor taps until you smell chlorine.  Then you let the chlorine bleach “percolate” in the system to disinfect it of any bacteria for 12-24 hours.  Because you can’t use any water at this time, we find it best to go camp, or take a night away at a motel while this is happening.  I find myself defaulting to turning on water to wash hands or other things without thinking, so it’s best to just not be there.  After the 12-24 hours, you run the outside taps/hoses until the water no longer smells like chlorine, then run the inside taps for the same.  Voila!  You now have a disinfected, clean water supply for the next year.

The things you learn while living in the mountains — that you might have spent your whole life living in ignorant bliss….