Lee Co. Environ. Health alerts owners of septic tanks, wells - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lee Co. Environ. Health alerts owners of septic tanks, private wells

News release from the Lee County Health Department

With some yards already underwater and forecasters predicting more heavy rain on the way, some homeowners need help preparing for or coping with flooded septic tanks and private wells, says Lee County Health Department's lead environmental health officer.

Ken Collins said his staff will evaluate on-site septic tanks or sewage systems and provide free testing on private wells for Lee County residents hit by flooding from recent heavy rains.

However, property with standing water may be too wet for homeowners or others to take immediate action, Collins said. "And with more heavy rain expected in coming days, we anticipate more flooding and more frustration," he said. "The unfortunate fact is that if the yard is too wet, there's little anyone can do until it dries out."

The best advice for some residents may be to be conservative with their water use until the rains end and high water recedes, Collins acknowledged.

"After things dry out, then work can be done to clean out gutters, put in ditches and employ other drainage solutions," he said. "Until then, when we come out to evaluate their situation, we may recommend cutting back on how frequently they flush toilets, or limiting their tap water usage, for example."

Meanwhile, those with flooded private wells should take precautions against waterborne illnesses by boiling well water for two minutes and then straining it before consumption, said Collins.

"Even though a Boil Water Order isn't in effect, if your private well flooded, please limit consumption to bottled water or boil well water for two minutes at a rolling boil and strain it before using it to brush your teeth, prepare food or drink," he said.

However, the water need not be boiled for other domestic activities, such as washing laundry or bathing, he said.

Disinfection of flooded private wells cannot begin until water covering the affected wells recedes.           Collins also provided information and instructions for emergency disinfection of private wells:

 Materials needed for emergency disinfection of flooded wells

  • One gallon of non-scented household liquid bleach
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Old clothes
  • A funnel


Steps to disinfect flooded private wells

Step 1

If your water is muddy or cloudy, run the water from an outside spigot with a hose attached until the water becomes clear and free of sediments.

Step 2

Determine the type of well you have and how to pour the bleach into the well. Some wells have a sanitary seal with either an air vent or a plug that can be removed. If it is a bored or dug well, the entire cover can be lifted off to provide a space for pouring the bleach into the well.

Step 3

Take the gallon of bleach and funnel (if needed) and carefully pour the bleach down into the well casing.

Step 4

After the bleach has been added, run water from an outside hose into the well casing until you smell chlorine coming from the hose. Then turn off the outside hose.

Step 5

Turn on all cold water faucets, inside and outside of house, until the chlorine odor is detected in each faucet, then shut them all off. If you have a water treatment system, switch it to bypass before turning on the indoor faucets.

Step 6

Wait six to 24 hours before turning the faucets back on. It is important not to drink, cook, bathe or wash with this water during the time period – it contains high amounts of chlorine.

Step 7

Once the waiting period is up, turn on an outside spigot with hose attached and run the water into a safe area where it will not disturb plants, lakes, streams or septic tanks. Run the water until there is no longer a chlorine odor. Turn the water off.

Step 8

The system should now be disinfected, and you can now use the water.

Step 9

If you are not sure about performing the disinfection procedure, contact a licensed, professional well installer for assistance.

Step 10

Contact the environmental health department at Lee County Health Department for water testing at least five days after disinfection. The number is 759-3016.

Other flood-related material is available on-line at the Southwest Health District web page, www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.

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