After the Storm – Well Water Safety

by Rachel Laurendeau on October 30, 2012

With hurricanes and “superstorms” being at the forefront of our collective minds these days, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Of course, emergency preparedness has been a hot topic, but we’ve also been thinking about the aftermath of these ever more frequent, massive weather events. What happens after the storm passes, after the news crews have left and people are left to deal with the repercussions on their own? This is a series of three blogs, dedicated specifically to post-storm cleanup and home improvements after major storms.
If you have a home or cottage outside of a major urban center, chances are you are getting your water from a private well rather than a municipal water source. Major storms and hurricanes that bring flooding can have an important impact on your well, your water pump and your water supply so it is important to take precautions before trying to use your well for drinking, cooking or bathing.
The USEPA has specific instructions on what to do in regards to private wells after a flood, some of which we will highlight below. We highly recommend reviewing the USEPA’s instructions as well as speaking to your local or state health department or agricultural extension agent who can help you with testing and disinfecting your water.
• If your pump and electrical system have been submerged, DO NOT try to turn on the pump until it has been inspected by an electrician or well contractor as there is the danger of electrical shock or damage to your system if it is used before being dried out.
• Water, debris and sediment can damage your well, water supply and submersible well pump. In order to prevent further damage, the components should be cleaned by a professional, prior to running the system.
• Once the components are safe to run, your well will need to be disinfected using bleach and following expert instructions. After the disinfection, the water should be sampled and tested to ensure it is safe to use.
• Depending on the severity of the flooding, the area you live in and the types of activities going on around you, your well water can become contaminated by damaged septic tanks, agricultural chemicals and other sources of ground water contamination long after the initial flood. Even if your initial water testing shows that your water is safe to drink, it is best to continue with periodic testing for some time to ensure your health and safety.
Resources: USEPA and American Red Cross

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