Areas in Ellenburg, Chazy and Altona were impacted by flash flooding Aug. 3. After flooding, private well owners are encouraged by the Clinton County Health Department to take actions to ensure their private well water supply is safe for consumption.
When a water supply well has been affected by flood waters, the water within the well may be contaminated with waterborne pathogens that can cause serious illness in humans and pets. If it is believed well water has been contaminated, discontinue using well water for drinking and cooking purposes, and use only disinfected or bottled water. Contact the Clinton County Health Department for fact sheets and instructions on proper clean-up, disinfection and sampling to make sure your drinking water is safe.
Drinking water wells can also be contaminated by fuel oil or other chemical products released during the flood, such as from home oil tanks or agricultural tanks. If it is believed a well may be contaminated by petroleum or other chemicals, do not use well and immediately contact the health department or the Department of Environmental Conservation Spill Hotline at 1-800-457-7362.
A flood will leave warnings signs that a well may be unsafe. The following are some things a well owner can look for. Any of these signs may indicate a well is contaminated. Most private wells have the pump located inside the well casing and submerged, so well owners will probably not be able to inspect the pump. Well owners should contact a qualified professional, registered well driller or pump contractor, to evaluate and service well pumps.
• Is the well located in or near the area that was flooded? If the area was not seen during the flood, debris and mud in the area and water or mud stains on the well can indicate the well was flooded.
• Is the ground surface around the well intact and stable? During flooding, the ground around the well may erode, possibly creating unsafe conditions or a pathway for surface water and contaminants to enter the well.
• Are there any electrical components or wires visible? Visible electrical wires may be dangerous and should be avoided due to electrical shock. If electrical connections or controls located outside the well casing remain submerged, turning on the pump may cause electrical shock or damage to the system. A qualified electrician should be contacted.
• Is any damage to the well casing visible? A bent or cracked well casing may allow surface water, sediment and debris to enter the well and will increase the risk of contamination.
• Is the well cap and seal securely fastened to the well casing? A loose well cap can allow sediment and debris to enter the well and contaminate it.
If it is determined the well has been flooded, do not turn on well pump until the well has been assessed and repaired as needed. Do not drink or wash with well water until the well has been restored by proper disinfection and flushing.
For more information, contact CCHD at 565-4870 or visit www.clintonhealth.org for well disinfection steps.