Hurricanes can contaminate the public water supply, especially if a tidal surge or flooding comes with it. Drinking contaminated water may cause illness. People cannot assume that the water in the hurricane-affected area is safe to drink. In the area hit by a hurricane or tropical storm, water treatment plants may not be operating. Even if they are, storm damage and flooding can taint water lines. Listen for public announcements about the safety of the public water supply. If your well has been flooded, it needs to be tested and disinfected after the storm passes and the floodwaters leave. Water for Drinking and Cooking Safe drinking water includes bottled, boiled or treated water. Here are some general rules concerning water for drinking and cooking. Remember:
- Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food or make ice.
- If you use bottled water, know where it came from. Otherwise, water should be boiled or treated before use. Drink only bottled, boiled or treated water until your supply is tested and safe.
- Boiling water kills harmful bacteria and parasites. Bringing water to a rolling boil for 1 minute will kill infectious germs.
- Water may be treated with chlorine by mixing eight drops (1/8 teaspoon; about the size of a dime) of unscented, ordinary household chlorine bleach (4-6 percent active ingredients) per gallon of water. Mix the solution thoroughly, and let stand for approximately 30 minutes. Use a container that has a cap or cover for disinfecting and storing water to be used for drinking. This will prevent contamination. However, this treatment will not kill parasites that may have entered a flooded well. Iodine or other disinfection tablets available at sporting goods, drug or discount stores may also be used.
Containers for water should be rinsed with a bleach solution before reusing them (one tablespoon bleach per gallon of water). Use water storage tanks and other types of containers with caution. For example, fire truck storage tanks as well as previously used cans or bottles may be contaminated with bacteria or chemicals. Do not rely on untested water treatment devices for decontaminating water.
Clean The Area Around Your Well Pump System
Cleaning up the area around your well system prevents damage that might be caused by flying debris. Moving flood water or high winds can carry debris that could loosen well hardware, dislodge well construction materials, or damage the casing.
Preparing An Aerator on Well Water For A Hurricane.
The big white holding tanks which are called Aerators. They need to be screwed down with stainless steel screws and washers to prevent rusting and your lid from blowing away. For now, any screw will do if you do not have the stainless screws. Some tanks already have holes but maybe too big for the screws that you have. Put screws in the salt tank lids as well to secure them.
Wells Can Be Damaged And Flooded.
If wells are damaged or flooded, residents should assume their water is contaminated by bacteria. The well water should not be used for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth or even bathing until it is tested by a certified laboratory for coliform bacteria and E. coli.
- Boiling: To make water safe for drinking, cooking or washing, bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute to kill organisms and then allow it to cool.
- Disinfecting with bleach: If boiling isn’t possible, add 1/8thteaspoon or about 8 drops of unscented household bleach per gallon of water (4 to 6% active ingredient). Stir well and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the procedure once.
- Keep treated or boiled water in a closed container to prevent contamination
Use bottled water for mixing infant formula.
Where can you have your well water tested?
Most county health departments accept water samples for testing. Contact your local health department for information about what to have your water tested for (they may recommend more than just bacteria), and how to collect and submit the sample. Crystal Clear Water can collect your sample for you for your convenience.
Contact information for county health departments can be found on this site: http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/county-health-departments/find-a-county-health-department/index.html
What should you do if your well water sample tests positive for bacteria?
The Florida Department of Health recommends well disinfection if water samples test positive for total coliform bacteria or for both total coliform and E. coli, a type of fecal coliform bacteria.
You can hire a local licensed well operator to disinfect your well, or if you feel comfortable, you can shock chlorinate the well yourself. English: http://twon.tamu.edu/media/668950/waterwell_tri-fold__state_10-13-17.pdf and Spanish: http://twon.tamu.edu/media/675343/spanish-waterwell_tri-fold.pdf
After well disinfection, you need to have your well water re-tested to make sure it is safe to use. If it tests positive again for Total coliform bacteria or both Total coliform and E. coli call a licensed well operator to have the well inspected to get to the root of the problem.
Well pump and electrical system care
If the pump and/or electrical system have been underwater and are not designed to be used underwater, do not turn on the pump. There is a potential for electrical shock or damage to the well or pump. Stay away from the well pump while flooded to avoid electric shock.
Once the floodwaters have receded and the pump and electrical system have dried, a qualified electrician, well operator/driller or pump installer should check the wiring system and other well components.
Remember: You should have your well water tested at any time when:
- A flood occurred and your well was affected
- The color, taste or odor of your well water changes or if you suspect that someone became sick after drinking your well water.
- A new well is drilled or if you have had maintenance done on your existing well
The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) maintains an excellent website with many resources for private well users http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/private-well-testing/index.html which includes information on potential contaminants and how to maintain your well to ensure the quality of your well water.