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.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Witness to a Flash Flood

by Amanda Pruzinsky

Amanda's view from inside during the flash flood

Amanda’s view during the flash flood

On Saturday, July 30, my boyfriend and I visited Ellicott City, Maryland to sightsee its historic downtown despite the rainy day.  No one had any way of knowing that an otherwise ordinary day would end in such devastation.  Everyone was chatting about the rain when an alarm hit our smart phones.  Another summer storm, another flash flood warning, everyone glances at their phones and continues on with their evening.

Its 8:11 p.m., only a few minutes after the flash flood warning to our phones.  The heavy rainstorm had turned into the warned flash flood in less time than I can comprehend.  Everyone is glued to the windows in the front of the restaurant yelling over the sound of the raging water, watching even after the basement filled with water, power went out, and alarms came on. We continued watching for over an hour as the river of brown water swept away cars, rolled huge dumpsters, toppled street signs, cut the power lines, and raged like it would last forever.

By 9:33 p.m., the flood retreated and we took to the street to find our car while rescue squads ran in groups down the hill with large yellow rafts. The streets were full of terrified people, all looking unbelievably at the vast holes in the streets and buildings, totaled cars, and wreckage strewn before us.

My heart goes out to all of the people who were there, for the homes and businesses destroyed, and to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives.

These types of weather events happen very suddenly and there is only so much one can do to prepare.  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an excellent resource for information on what to do in disasters, such as flash floods, and the agency has a downloadable FEMA mobile app as well. EPA also has helpful information, including natural disaster preparedness and response tips, flood resilience checklist, flood risk management resources, and flood cleanup resources for your home or businesses.

Hurricanes, severe storms, flooding, droughts, and wildfires are increasing in frequency, intensity, or length. Communities are taking action and investing in their continued safety.  EPA is partnering with other national and international programs, states, localities, tribes, and communities to develop policies and provide technical assistance, analytical tools, and outreach support on climate change issues.

On the news, I hear plans being discussed to rebuild Ellicott City to be even stronger and more resilient than before. In the height of all of the devastation, there is hope for the future.

 

About the Author: Amanda Pruzinsky is a physical scientist for the Water Protection Division in EPA’s mid-Atlantic region working to support all of the water programs with a focus on data management, analysis, and communication.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Surviving the Flood

Looking down the stairs, I can still picture the glistening, glass-like surface of our 1950’s parquet basement floor. Only a slight ripple revealed the thin layer of water lapping on the baseboards. It was an evening of heavy pounding rain from Hurricane Agnes. I was 10 or 11 years old and the first in my family to discover our flooded basement. Armed with towels, buckets, and shop vacs, we fought the rising water. But water has a way of consuming everything in its path. For us, the flood claimed our rugs, furniture, clothes, furnace, and water heater. Many of us have faced similar flooding first-hand, or seen dramatic TV images of flooding, such as cars washed away by rushing water, boats floating down roadways, or rescue teams racing to save citizens from rising waters.

After years of similar floods, our family finally had enough and adopted the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We landscaped the grounds to channel the water away from the house. We installed two sump pumps in the basement to remove the rising water before it reached our basement floor. And it worked. These mitigation steps protected our household, restored our confidence, and became our insurance policy against reoccurring flood damage. Why did we wait so long?

During floods, even when the electricity is out, you can turn on the faucet and flush the toilet. Thankfully water and wastewater utilities are very reliable during disasters, but they are often located near rivers and in low-lying areas that are prone to floods. In the last 5 years, more frequent and larger rainstorms and extreme flooding has severely affected water and wastewater utilities in New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Iowa, Minnesota, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and Connecticut to name a few. Like us, utilities know they are vulnerable, but it is not easy to take those first ounces of prevention.

EPA’s newly released tool, Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities helps utilities understand their flooding threat and identify practical and cost effective ways to protect themselves by, for example, elevating instrumentation, installing submersible pumps, and installing backup power. With easy to use worksheets, instructional videos, and flood maps, the Guide helps give utilities as well as us, their customers, confidence that we are flood resilient.

See the Guide at water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/emerplan/. See a video on flood resilience at http://youtu.be/r25J-DJH2NQ.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.