Health Department issues advisory on private wells

Health Department issues advisory on private wells


The Winnebago County Health Department has issued an advisory for those individuals whose private wells are submerged in floodwater. For safe water, we recommend the following:

1) Use bottled water (if possible).

2) Boil water vigorously for a minimum of 3 minutes prior to use.

If these options are not available to you, you can disinfect your water by using a bleach solution of 5 to 10 drops per gallon of water, mix, and let stand a minimum of 30 minutes before use. Do not exceed recommended amount of bleach. Do not use bleach with additives.

If your private well proves to be contaminated by testing, it should be disinfected and then retested to ensure that the water is safe to drink. Water that is not tested and confirmed to be free of bacteria should not be used for drinking, washing dishes, brushing your teeth, cooking, or making ice, Information about disinfecting water wells may be obtained from the Health Department’s division of Environmental Health by calling 720-4100. The Health Department recently opened 12 offsite private water testing sites around the county for easier convenience for residents to test their water. Location of the sites may be found by calling Ruth Roth, Groundwater Protection Coordinator, at 720-4122.

Septic systems that may have been inundated by floodwaters should be used carefully until they dry to normal conditions. Overuse of a water-saturated system may cause it to fail and bring sewage contamination to the surface of the ground or cause back up into the house. These systems will return to a normal state given time and favorable conditions. Owners of systems that were saturated should try to minimize the amount of waste being discharged to the system to allow time for recovery.

Many basements have been flooded due to the recent rains. To proceed with the cleanup of basements, the first consideration should be physical safety: never go into a flooded basement unless the power is turned off to it. Turn off gas main at the meter. To deal with the damage in a basement after flooding, the first thing to do is dry out the enclosure. Drying the basement could take days or weeks depending on the conditions. Open the windows and doors to help remove gases in the house. Do not smoke or use any open flames as they could cause gases to explode. You should also remove goods and debris, including ruined construction materials, from the basement at this time. To clean up the area, all surfaces should be washed with a non-sudsing household cleaner and rinsed from the surfaces as you go along. A follow-up with disinfection of all affected surfaces should follow to prevent growth of mold and mildew. A good disinfectant is a mixture of 2 ounces of liquid chlorine bleach mixed in a gallon of water.

The large amount of pooled water that remains after a flood provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes. To protect yourself from mosquitoes, be sure doors and window screens are tight fitting and in good repair. Drain standing water in old tires, tin cans, birdbaths, clean clogged gutters and any other places where mosquitoes might breed.

It is critical to remember good, basic hygiene practices during this time. Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected. Outbreaks of communicable diseases are unusual. However, if you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces or saliva, have a doctor or the health department determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary based on individual records. Specific recommendations for vaccinations should be made on a case-by-case basis, or as determined by local and state health departments.

The Winnebago County Health Department has several brochures available regarding flooding. Please contact the Environmental Health Division at 720-4102.

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