Drilled, driven or bored wells are should be disinfected by a licensed well or pump contractor, because it is difficult for the private owner to thoroughly disinfect these wells. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact your local licensed well driller or pump installer to have the well water sampled and tested for contamination.
The suggestions below are intended to supplement flood precautions issued by State and local health authorities.
What concerns should I have after a flood if I have a private well?
Stay away from the well pump while flooded to avoid electric shock, AND . . .
- Do not drink or wash from the flooded well to avoid becoming sick.
- Get assistance from a licensed well or pump contractor to clean and turn on the pump.
- After the pump is turned back on, pump the well until the water runs clear to rid the well of flood water.
- If the water does not run clear, contact your local licensed well driller or pump installer.
Well and Pump Inspection
- Flood Conditions at the Well – Swiftly moving flood water can carry large debris that could loosen well hardware, dislodge well construction materials or distort casing. Coarse sediment in the flood waters could erode pump components. If the well is not tightly capped, sediment and flood water could enter the well and contaminate it. Wells that are more than 10 years old or less than 50 feet deep are likely to be contaminated, even if there is no apparent damage. Floods may cause some wells to collapse.
- Electrical System – After flood waters have receded and the pump and electrical system have dried, do not turn on the equipment until the wiring system has been checked by a qualified electrician, well contractor, or pump contractor. If the pump’s control box was submerged during the flood all electrical components must be dry before electrical service can be restored. Get assistance in turning the pump on from a licensed well or pump contractor.
- Pump Operation – All pumps and their electrical components can be damaged by sediment and flood water. The pump including the valves and gears will need to be cleaned of silt and sand. If pumps are not cleaned and properly lubricated they can burn out. Get assistance from a licensed well or pump contractor who will be able to clean, repair or maintain different types of pumps.
Private, individual wells are the responsibility of the homeowner. To help protect your well, here are some steps you can take:
Have your water tested periodically. It is recommended that water be tested every year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, test for those. Always use a licensed professional that conducts drinking water tests.
Identify potential problems as the first step to safeguarding your drinking water. The best way to start is to consult a local expert, someone that knows your area, such as your local well driller or pump installer, agricultural extension agent, or a geologist at a local university Be aware of your surroundings. As you drive around your community, take note of new construction. Check the local newspaper for articles about new construction in your area.
Check the paper or call your local planning or zoning commission for announcements about hearings or zoning appeals on development or industrial projects that could possibly affect your water.
Attend these hearings, ask questions about how your water source is being protected, and don’t be satisfied with general answers. Make statements like “If you build this landfill, (just an example) what will you do to ensure that my water will be protected.” See how quickly they answer and provide specifics about what plans have been made to specifically address that issue.
Identify Potential Problem Sources
To start your search for potential problems, begin close to home. Do a survey around your well:
- is there livestock nearby?
- are pesticides being used on nearby agricultural crops or nurseries?
- do you use lawn fertilizers near the well?
- is your well “downstream” from your own or a neighbor’s septic system?
- is your well located near a road that is frequently salted or sprayed with de-icers during winter months?
- do you or your neighbors dispose of household wastes or used motor oil in the backyard, even in small amounts?
If any of these items apply, it may be best to have your water tested and talk to your local well driller or pump installer to find way to change some of the practices which can affect your private well.