Before and After Flooding
Wells - Well Water Safety
Did you know heavy rainfall from a tropical storm or hurricane can make your well water unsafe to use? If you are unsure what impact flooding has had on your well water, don't use it for drinking, making beverages, cooking, washing dishes, brushing your teeth, and washing areas of your body that may have been cut or injured until you have done one of the following:
- Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute; cool before use
- Disinfect water using unscented household bleach (4-6% active ingredients); add 8 drops (about 1/8 teaspoon) per gallon of water, stir and let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, repeat the procedure
If your well has been flooded, call 239-274-2200 in Lee County for information on how to get a sample of your well water and where to bring it for bacteriological testing. As a precaution, you may wish to attempt to disinfect your well before taking a sample. The Florida Department of Health in Lee County (FDOH-Lee) has information on how to disinfect a potentially contaminated well. If after disinfection, the test reveals bacteria, both the well and water system need to be disinfected to ensure all un-health agents are destroyed.
FDOH-Lee has step-by-step instructions on how to conduct well disinfection on its website (http://www.leechd.com/), click on "Services" at the top of the home page, and then click on "Environmental Engineering". After disinfection, the water needs to be tested again to verify it is safe to drink.
Serious Health Risks
Disease-producing micro-organisms in contaminated water pose serious health risks to you and your family. These micro-organisms include viruses, bacteria, cysts, and parasites with health effects that can range from gastrointestinal infection to death.
Do not take a chance on well safety. Be sure your well is properly constructed and maintained. Florida health departments recommend all wells be tested annually and after heavy rains or flooding.
Septic Systems - preparing your septic system for flooding
Did you know empty septic tanks are buoyant and can "pop" out of the ground during flooding? During Florida's tropical storm and hurricane season (June to November) make sure your septic tanks are full of liquid—don't have them pumped during this time. That's a simple precaution that can help your septic system survive flooding.
Saturated Drain fields can be a Health Hazard
When flooding or saturated soil conditions persist, a private septic system cannot function properly. In fact, organisms such as viruses and bacteria can enter the groundwater and contaminate your drinking water supply.
Again, don't drink your well water until it is tested and proven safe! Whenever the water table is high, there is also a risk that sewage could back up into your home. The only way to help prevent this problem is to relieve pressure on the system by using it less, or if possible, not at all.
Do not do laundry or operate the dishwasher, and consider renting a portable toilet until the drain fields dry out.
After the Floodwater Recedes
Once the floodwaters have receded, homeowners need to be aware of the following information as they check their septic systems.
Often systems are completely functional when the soil is no longer saturated.
For additional information on issues such as disinfecting areas affected by floodwater or sewage back-up, contact your DOH-Lee's Environmental Health Office at 239-690-2100 or the DOH-lee's website.
Evacuation Quick Tips!
If you need to evacuate your home because of flooding or hurricane threat, place the following items in a plastic bag and bring them with you:
- Your children's immunization and other important health and insurance records.
- Your insurance/ Medicare/ Medicaid cards, and Driver's license or photo ID.
- Each family member's medications, along with dosage information, and physicians' contact information. If you prefer, you can download and print a convenient form for this purpose at www.leecountyinjuryprevention.org. Click on the ICE link and click on Medication and Contact Form
Each form has room for medical information for two people living in the same house-hold. If you are in an area prone to flooding and evacuation, you may want to gather the documents above in advance. If the order to evacuate is given, having everything ready to go at a moment's notice will save you trying to find these items in a hurry.
Because It Can Be a Matter of Life & Death
The Family Preparedness Guide is an excellent, thorough resource for evacuation and many kinds of emergencies you and your loved ones could face one day. It covers creating a disaster plan for your family including supplies needed, financial and medical records, family communications, pet care and much, much more.
The guide, which includes information for people with disabilities, may be accessed on most county health department websites, including FDOH-Lee website at www.leechd.com (click on "Services" then "Public Health Preparedness").
The guide is in brochure format for ease of printing and use. Why not print out the guide for family members and friends and share copies well before hurricane season!