What to do if your well is flooded

September 28, 2022

What to do if your well is flooded

Cynthia Leckie, Director of EH
[email protected]

Viera, Florida—Heavy rainfall and flooding can make your tap water unsafe. If you are unsure of the safety of your well water, use commercial bottled water, disinfected water, or boiled and cooled water for drinking, making beverages or ice, cooking, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and washing recent wounds.

Use commercial bottled water to mix baby formula

To be safe, you can disinfect tap water using the procedures below. Do not rely on unproven methods to decontaminate water. If the water is cloudy, allow it to settle and filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel or coffee filter. This will aid the disinfection process. If you have excess water, place it in containers that have been properly disinfected (see information below on water disinfection).

The preferred method of water disinfection is Boiling water.

  • Let the water boil for at least one minute to kill harmful bacteria and parasites.
  • To improve the smooth taste of boiled water, add a pinch of salt (depending on health status) to each quart or liter of water, or transfer the water from one clean container to another clean container several times.

If boiling is not possible, use Household bleach.

  • Add eight drops of unscented regular household bleach (four to six percent strength), which is about 1/8 teaspoon, or a dime-sized puddle, per gallon of water.
    • Do not use color-safe bleach or bleach with added detergents.
  • If using a higher strength bleach (up to 8.25 percent strength), add only six drops of bleach.
  • Stir the solution and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  • If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the procedure once.
  • If the chlorine taste is too strong, transfer the water from one clean container to another and let it sit for a few hours before using.

It is also possible to use other disinfection methods.

Note: Follow product label instructions as each product may have different strengths.

  • Five drops of iodine (two percent tincture) may be added to each quart or liter of water for disinfection.
    Note: According to CDCwater that has been disinfected with iodine is NOT recommended for pregnant women, people with thyroid problems, people with known hypersensitivity to iodine, or for prolonged use of more than a few weeks.
  • If the water is cloudy or colored, add 10 drops of iodine.
  • Stir and let the water sit for at least 30 minutes before use.
  • Water disinfection tablets (available at sporting goods departments or stores) that contain chlorine, iodine, chlorine dioxide, or other disinfecting agents can also be used.

Water containers should be rinsed with a bleach solution of one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water before use.

If your well has been flooded, please call the Florida Department of Health (DOH) Brevard County (DOH-Brevard) at 321-633-2100 or [email protected] for information on how to collect samples from your water and where to bring the sample for bacteriological testing. If the test reveals bacteria, the well and water systems should be disinfected.

It is important to disinfect both well and tap water with unscented household bleach to ensure that all infectious agents (germs) are killed. If you have water purification devices, remove all membranes, cartridges and filters. Replace with new ones after the disinfection process is complete.

The department recommends the following steps for disinfecting a contaminated well:

  • If the water is discolored before adding bleach, run the water until it runs clear for up to 10 minutes.
    • If the water does not clear after a while, wait until you have clear water before proceeding, as this means the well may still be affected by the flood.
  • Turn off the pump.
  • Turn off and then drain your hot water heater as bleach is not effective in water above 105 degrees.
  • Removal all membranes, cartridges and filters.
  • Replace the removed items with new ones after the disinfection process is complete.
  • To avoid adding pollution to the well during disinfection, clean the work area around the top of the well.
    • Remove grease and mineral deposits from accessible parts of the wellhead.
    • Rinse exterior surfaces with 1/2 cup unscented household bleach in five gallons of water.
  • Disinfect the pump. Remove the rubber seal seat cap or plug.
    • There are many types of well caps and plugs. If you have questions, contact a licensed driller.
    • If you have a jet pump, you may also want to contact a licensed well driller for advice on disinfection procedures.
  • See the whitening chart below and pour the recommended amount of regular unscented bleach solution (4 to 8.25 percent strength) into the well.
    • Try to cover the sides of the case as you pour.
  • If you get bleach on the pump or cablesrinse it thoroughly with fresh water to prevent further corrosion.

Depth of well in feet Well diameter in inches
2 inches
4 inches
5 inches
6 inches
20 feet 1 cup 1 cup 1 cup 1 cup
30 feet 1 cup 1 cup 1 cup 2 glasses
40 feet 1 cup 1 cup 2 glasses 2 glasses
50 feet 1 cup 2 glasses 2 glasses 3 glasses
80 feet 1 cup 2 glasses 1 liter 1 liter
100 feet 1 cup 3 glasses 1 liter 1.5 quarts
150 feet 2 glasses 1 liter 2 liters 2.5 liters
200 feet 3 glasses 1.5 quarts 2.5 liters 3 liters

conversions: 8 oz = 1 cup; 16 oz = 1 pint or = 2 cups; 24 oz = 3 cups; 32 oz = 1 liter; 48 oz = 1.5 quarts; 64 oz = 2 quarts; 80 oz = 2.5 liters; 96 ounces = 3 quarts.

  • Replace the cap or plug well opening and wait 30 minutes.
  • Turn on and, if necessary, prime the pump again.
    • Open all the faucets of the system one by one.
    • Start with the outside faucets closest to the well to limit the amount of water entering the septic system, especially if the drainfield area is flooded.
    • Let the water run until a noticeable smell of bleach appears.
    • You may also want to flush the toilets.
    • If you have outdoor faucets, you may want to direct the water away from sensitive plants.
    • If you cannot smell the bleach, repeat the sanitizing process.
  • Stop all faucets and allow the bleach to remain in the system for at least eight hours.
  • Backwash water softenerssand filters and iron removal filters with bleach water.
  • Open all the taps again and run the water until the bleach smell is gone – up to 15 minutes.
    • Again, start with the ones outside, first near the well.
    • This will limit the amount of bleach and water from entering and possibly affecting the septic tank and drain field.

Is the water safe now?

Although chlorine bleach is effective against most microorganisms, it will not remove chemical contamination that may have entered your well. If chemical contamination occurs, use commercially produced bottled water until a safe water source is available. Contact DOH-Brevard at 321-633-2100 or [email protected] for sampling instructions to test your water.

About the Florida Department of Health

The department, nationally accredited by the Council on Public Health Accreditation, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @HealthyFla. For more information about the Florida Department of Health, please visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.

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