For more information contact:
Steven Kern at (607) 274-6688
Flooding: Is Your Drinking Water Well Safe?
September 8, 2011 (Ithaca, N.Y.) — The current heavy rains have brought flooding to the area. Many locations in the county depend on water wells to supply their drinking water. These important water supplies can be negatively impacted by flooding. Flood waters can carry sewage, animal wastes, disease-causing organisms, and pesticides, fertilizers or other hazardous chemicals, leading to potential contamination of well waters.
The Tompkins County Health Department advises that one should not drink well water if:
- it appears that water from the ground surface is entering the well (if the well casing is under water), or
- the water from the well becomes cloudy or discolored, or
- the water from the well has unusual odors or colors
Commercially bottled water should be used until the well returns to normal and the water is proven to be safe. If bottled water is not available, the water can be made bacteriologically safe by bringing it to a rolling boil for at least two minutes. If the water has sediment in it, this should be settled and only clear water boiled. However, this procedure does not remove other types of harmful contaminants.
After the flood waters have receded, the well should be disinfected and a water sample analyzed for bacteria. The water may be contaminated even if it appears to look, smell and taste fine. The Health Department advises that private wells be tested annually for bacteria and nitrates to assure safe domestic water supplies and to protect family health.
Further advice on disinfecting wells after flood waters recede, general well maintenance, or a list of approved laboratories for water analysis, is available from the Tompkins County Health Department, Division of Environmental Health, at (607) 274-6688, Monday through Friday, 8:30-4:30.