As floodwaters recede in Phelps County, the Phelps/Maries County Health Department is beginning to receive questions about testing private well systems affected by the floods.
Jodi Waltman, county health department administrator, told Phelps County officials last week during the commission’s Aug. 22 meeting that several homeowners in the Jerome and Newburg area have started contacting her office about making sure their well water is not contaminated by the floods.
Drinking water supplies can become contaminated if any open part of the system is exposed to floodwaters or the system loses pressure during the flood event, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Floodwaters can be contaminated due to a tremendous number of contaminants dissolved in the water, such as livestock manure, washed out septic systems, gas and oil or flooded municipal sewage treatment plants.
Drinking water supplies exposed to any of these conditions should not be used for human consumption until properly disinfected or tested and found to be safe.
Waltman said her department offers chlorine tablets to test the private well systems. Flood victims can have the normal fee waived, Waltman said.
“If a well was underwater, you can put the chlorine tablets in the system, and then you take a sample of the well water after the system has been flushed,” Waltman said.
She noted that just because the odor of chlorine can no longer be smelled, it doesn’t mean that the chlorine is completely gone.
Waltman said every private well and every private septic system should be tested for contamination.
According to the state health department, when disinfecting a deep well, there is a possibility that liquid or powdered material will not reach the bottom of the well in sufficient quantities to be effective.
Calcium hypochlorite in tablet form, which will sink to the bottom of the well before dissolving, is preferable in this case.
If the well has been flooded or if tests indicate heavy contamination, enough chlorine material should be added to the well water to establish a chlorine concentration of 50 parts per million (ppm) after 12 hours.
If surface drainage or shallow underground water can enter the well, disinfection provides only temporary protection. To permanently safeguard the supply, the well should be reconstructed to protect against further contamination, the state department advised.
The Phelps/Maries County Health Department can assist flood victims with any questions about disinfecting wells or septic systems by calling 573-458-6010 or by visiting the department at the Phelps County Courthouse, 200 N. Main St., Suite G51, Rolla.
More flood information is available on the health department’s website, http://phelpscountyhealth.com.