With Florida still in the grips of hurricane season, the potential for flooding is very real. You may think of your well as a closed system – and in many cases, it is. However, you should know that your well may be at risk for contamination from pollutants after a flood. In this article, find out what to do if your well floods.

If Your Well Floods…

Many local governments will monitor and test local water qualities after heavy flooding has occurred, so be on the lookout for any drinking water advisories from the local board of health or department of environmental services. However, if floodwaters rise above your well cap, your well water has probably been contaminated. In either case, the only way to know for sure is to perform immediate testing on your water. In the meantime, until you can confirm the safety of your well water, you should not use it for drinking, cooking, or even washing up.

Where to Get Water

As you can’t use your well water but still need to cook, clean, and consume water, it is important to have a backup supply. You can use bottled water for drinking and washing, and greywater from washing to flush toilets. You can also decontaminate most pollutants by boiling your well’s water for five minutes at a high boil. However, if local water advisories mention chemical contamination, this still isn’t advised. You don’t want to be using well water that is contaminated by gasoline, for example.

Many local governments will provide bottled water in case of flood emergencies. Stay aware of your municipality’s actions to clean up after the disaster to help save yourself considerable costs on obtaining potable water for the duration of the disaster.

After Your Well Floods

Once floodwaters recede, and there is no longer any flood danger, you’ll want to disinfect your well. While you can potentially disinfect your well on your own, the process is lengthy. You have to be thorough, or your well water may remain contaminated. If you want to attempt it yourself, begin by preparing a disinfecting solution of unscented bleach and water. Next, remove your well cap and pour the solution into your well. Be sure to coat the walls of your well casing completely.

Next, to circulate your well water, go inside and turn on all of the faucets one by one until you smell bleach. Allow the mixture to disinfect the system for at least two hours, and then flush the system by running the faucets again and using an outdoor garden hose flowing into your well. Do not run the water into your septic system, as this will likely overload the septic system and introduce more problems. After the water begins running clean, conduct another test 24 hours later.

You should also examine your water well components for damage, particularly electrical damage. However, working with the electrical systems of your well can be dangerous. Because of the amount of work involved in disinfecting your well and ensuring its components are functioning correctly, the best advice we can give is always to call a professional after a flood has affected your well. Professionals will be able to test, re-test, and repair your well systems to ensure it runs clean and efficient even after serious storm damage.