If Your Private Well Has Been Flooded…

by Catherine Magliocchetti

EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region is home to millions of residents who rely upon private wells for their drinking water supply.  As local conditions and weather may present the prospect of moderate and major flood conditions for many of our communities, owners of private wells are reminded to take the following actions:

If a well has been flooded (i.e., if flood waters have surrounded and/or submerged your well head):

  1. Do not drink or wash with the water until the well has been serviced, disinfected and confirmed safe.
  2. Avoid electrical shock – stay away from the well pump and turn off the well pump circuit breaker.
  3. Contact your local health department or other local officials for recommendations on how to test and confirm that flood hazards have been resolved.  Local government offices can often assist homeowners in finding certified laboratory resources, especially for bacterial testing, which is anticipated following flood events.  Local officials may also be able to advise if other parameters should be investigated, following a flood event (e.g., agricultural areas may want to test for the presence of fertilizers or pesticides.
  4. Seek a qualified well contractor or pump installer to assist with the following:
  • Clean, dry and re-establish electrical service to the pump.
  • Disinfect and flush the well to remove any contamination that entered during the flood.
  • Perform any other necessary maintenance so that your well pump can return to service.  Note that excess sediment in water can cause pump damage and even failure, so use of professional contractors is recommended for assessment and correction of pump function.

As a private well owner, you likely also have an on-lot septic system, which may also have been impacted by flood waters.  Keep in mind that flood events will impact your septic drainfield, and could also potentially damage pumps or other parts of your septic system.

Faulty septic systems and drainfields can negatively impact your well water quality down the road, so have your septic system evaluated by a professional following a flood, to ensure normal operation has returned.

For more information, watch this video on well flooding from the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).


About the Author: Cathy Magliocchetti has been with EPA Region III for more than two decades.  She currently works on wellhead and source protection of drinking water.   She is a certified Penn State Master Well Owner and a member of her local environmental advisory council.

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