JARS v58n4 - Well Water - A Deadly Toxin

Well Water - A Deadly Toxin
Dr. Edward Jasionowski
Parlin, New Jersey

Eight years ago, upon retirement, I devoted several hours each day to my hobby of growing rhododendrons. In a few years, I had over 700 plants on my two-acre wooded plot.
During a hot, dry summer, some of my plants died, partially or completely. Watering was difficult; water pressure was low because my land was the highest in the vicinity. Only one sprinkler would function at a time. Digging a well seemed to be the solution.
Three years ago, a superficial well, which was dependent on rainwater filtering through the sand, was dug. The water flow was determined to be insufficient for irrigation purposes (only 7 gallons/min.). Last fall I opted for a deep well (through a clay layer). At 250 feet, a copious supply (over 100 gallons/min.) was obtained. The well digger informed me that the iron level made it unsuitable for drinking purposes; however, I considered it an asset for rhododendrons.
This spring I used sprinklers to water all my young plants. These included several years production of prized rooted cuttings (several hundred), as well as recently purchased plants. I also watered a recently planted garden of mature plans. To my consternation, next day all the leaves had a brownish stain. To get around this, I resorted to a drip system.

The skeleton remains of 
formally healthy plants.
The skeleton remains of formally healthy plants.
Photo by Edward Jasionowski

Final result, the plants lost all their leaves and subsequently died. The vegetation (ferns, grass, etc.) watered by the soaker hoses also died. Some mature plants watered for only a short time (1 D 2 hour) showed leaf damage and survived.
The water analysis revealed the following:
Iron 199 mg/L
Manganese 1.03 mg/L
Sodium 2880 mg/L

These levels are over 500 times the maximum permitted for drinking purposes. It is also not suitable for irrigation purposes.
Discouraged and back to square one.

Dr. Jasionowski is a member of the Princeton Chapter.