ALBANY, Ga. — Residents using private wells that have been flooded by the weekend’s severe weather should take precautions against waterborne illnesses by boiling well water for two minutes and then straining it before consumption, Southwest Health District Environmental Health Director Dewayne Tanner warned Sunday.
Tanner said the recommendations were only for private wells that were underwater. “If flood water didn’t cover your well, then you need not take these precautions,” Tanner said. “Although Southwest Health District has recommended a boil water order for flooded private wells in Worth County, we are well aware that other counties have private wells that flooded during the recent heavy rains.
“Regardless of whether a boil water order is in effect in your county, 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 ... teeth, prepare food or drink.”
Tanner said boiling is not necessary for other domestic activities such as washing laundry or bathing.
Disinfection of flooded private wells cannot begin until water covering the affected wells recedes, said Worth County Lead Environmentalist Laura Searcy.
Materials needed for emergency disinfection of flooded wells include a gallon of non-scented household liquid bleach, rubber gloves, eye protection, old clothes and a funnel.
The steps to disinfecting a private well are:
— If the 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;
— Determine what type of well it is 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;
— Take the gallon of bleach and funnel (if needed) and pour the bleach into the well casing;
— Run water from an outside house into the well casing until the smell of chlorine comes from the hose. Then turn off the outside hose;
— 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 there is a water treatment system, switch it to bypass before turning on the indoor faucets;
— Wait 6-24 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;
— Once the waiting period is over, 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.
— The system should now be disinfected, and the water can be used.
— If unsure about performing the disinfection procedure, contact a licensed, professional well installer for assistance.
— Contact the county health department for water testing at least five days after disinfectation.