Local residents using private wells that have been flooded by the recent heavy rains should take precautions against waterborne illnesses by boiling well water for two minutes and then straining it before consumption.
In a press release e-mailed to The Tifton Gazette, West Central Health District provided recommendations for private wells in flooded areas. Environmental Health District Director Jerome Deal of the West Central Health District (Columbus) emphasized that the recommendations are only for private wells that were underwater.
“If flood water didn’t cover your well, then you need not take these precautions,” Deal said. “If your private well flooded, please limit consumption to bottled water or boil well water for two minutes at a rolling boil and strain it before using it to brush your teeth, prepare food or drinks. However, the water need not be boiled for other domestic activities, such as washing laundry or bathing.”
Disinfection of flooded private wells cannot begin until water covering the affected wells recedes.
Materials needed for emergency disinfection of flooded wells:
• one gallon of non-scented household liquid bleach
• rubber gloves
• eye protection
• old clothes
• a funnel
Ten steps to disinfect flooded private wells:
• Step 1: If your water is muddy or cloudy, run the water from an outside spigot with a hose attached until the water becomes clear and free of sediments.
• Step 2: Determine what type of well you have and how to pour the bleach into the well. Some wells have a sanitary seal with either an air vent or a plug that can be removed. If it is a bored or dug well, the entire cover can be lifted off to provide a space for pouring the bleach into the well.
• Step 3: Take the gallon of bleach and funnel (if needed) and carefully pour the bleach down into the well casing.
• Step 4: After the bleach has been added, run water from an outside hose into the well casing until you smell chlorine coming from the hose. Then turn off the outside hose.
• Step 5: Turn on all cold water faucets, inside and outside of house, until the chlorine odor is detected in each faucet, then shut them all off. If you have a water treatment system, switch it to bypass before turning on the indoor faucets.
• Step 6: Wait six to 24 hours before turning the faucets back on. It is important not to drink, cook, bathe or wash with this water during the time period — it contains high amounts of chlorine.
• Step 7: Once the waiting period is up, turn on an outside spigot with hose attached and run the water into a safe area where it will not disturb plants, lakes, streams or septic tanks. Run the water until there is no longer a chlorine odor. Turn the water off.
• Step 8: The system should now be disinfected, and you can now use the water.
• Step 9: If you are not sure about performing the disinfection procedure, contact a licensed, professional well installer for assistance.
• Step 10: Contact your county health department for water testing at least five days after disinfection.
Scott Murphy, project manager for ESG Operations, Inc., which oversees the Tifton-Tift County Wastewater Treatment Plant, said when in doubt, local residents should have their well water tested by the City of Tifton water and wastewater laboratory, which is state certified. The cost is $30 per test.
He said if residents notice a change to their well water (odor, color or taste), there could be contamination. He noted that the water would need to be tested by a state certified lab.
Murphy said at the local lab, they run tests to see if there’s potentially harmful bacteria in the water.
“Generally, with water contamination, the most susceptible among us are very young children and the elderly,” he stated.
He advised that if residents go through the steps provided to disinfect private wells and still have problems, they should contact the local lab at 386-2115.
“If you take the steps to disinfect, you should go through the extra step to test it,” Murphy said. “You should test to verify [that the water is not contaminated]. We have ways to disinfect in south Georgia.”
He stated that sometimes it may take more than once to go through the previously listed procedures.
The local water and wastewater lab performs approximately 25,000 tests a year of the wastewater in Tifton, he stated. This verifies that the water meets state regulations.
To contact reporter Latasha Everson, call 382-4321.
The West Central Health District contributed to this story.