Well water is subject to contamination from above and below ground contaminants the same as surface water. Agricultural and residential fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides are regularly found in ground water. Industrial chemicals sometimes contaminate ground water and surface water. Radiation and toxic chemicals found in water wells can be caused by the currently popular fracturing (fracking) process used by some oil and natural gas companies.
Just as you can’t tell by looking if the water you wish to drink is contaminated with chemicals, bacteria and viruses, you can’t tell if it is contaminated by radiation. Certainly you will need special equipment for that. As stated in the article about purifying water, be on the look out for dead things in, on, or near the water source before approaching, touching, or using it.
Observing surface water is easier than observing ground water. Plants and animals lying dead all around a stream or lake is a sure sign something is wrong. Radiation contamination doesn’t kill instantly. The animals may drink the water and go a long distance away from the source before they die. When observing surface water, pay attention to more than the shores and banks.
Ground water is another matter completely. While there may be chemicals and bacteria, there won’t be animals standing around the well dead or dying. Instead, there might be people living in the area who can tell you about families who used a certain well or wells, who got sick and/or died from it.
But, let’s suppose you are in a world changing event and need to know if water is safe. You’d get out your handy water test kit to check for chemicals. Wait. If the water is contaminated with radiation, you may have already contaminated yourself, simply by touching anything the well water may have touched.
Instead, when approaching a water well, get out your handy Fluke radiation detector (charged by your solar powered charger) to find out if there is radiation present on the ground or surfaces of the interior of the well. Once you have safely approached the well, be careful about how you get the water out of the well. If the water is contaminated, breathing it’s fumes or touching it may likely will contaminate you. If you are going to sample the water be sure to wear protective gear and use protective equipment if at all possible!
Once you have determined that the water is contaminated with radiation, it’s up to you to decide if the risk of contaminating yourself is worth the reward of cleaning the water. Seriously, the only way most people would think the risk is acceptable is if there were absolutely no alternative sources of water and they were going to die before any other source of water can be found.
Major water purification systems designed to purify water for entire cities can’t even remove all the radiation contamination. Since using a source of water contaminated by radiation will be difficult to purify, will ruin any filters and utensils, may contaminate you during the process, and still may not be safe to use, one would only consider this under the most dire circumstances.
Right now, before some world altering event happens is the time to have your well water tested by professionals. It should be tested frequently since changes can happen without warning signs.
Referenes: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/02/fracking-radioactive-water-pennsylvania/2904829/ http://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/radiationdetection.html