Well water a concern for residents

As power is restored in the county, officials warn waterborne illnesses can be caused at homes with wells that were under water or that lost their prime during extended power outages.

Last year during Hurricane Matthew, at least 25 residents were treated for symptoms of waterborne illnesses stemming from contaminated wells.

Putnam County Fire and EMS Battalion Chief Paul Flateau said flooding and power outages from Hurricane Irma are more widespread.

Flateau said private wells that were underwater or lost prime need to be sanitized.

Drinking from a contaminated well can cause symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever, and people affected can have dark, bloody stool.

“If you’re unsure if your well is contaminated, use bottle water or boil water,” Flateau said. “Boiling water is sufficient to kill bacteria and viruses.”

Residents who choose to boil water need to have a “rolling boil” for at least one minutes, cool the water and store it in clear containers, Flateau said.

Residents can have well water tested at the health department, but results take one to two days to receive, Flateau said.

Flateau said anyone unsure of how to sanitize a well should contact a professional.


Steps to disinfect a contaminated well:
* If water is discolored before adding bleach, run the water for up to 10 minutes until it is clear.
* Turn off and then drain hot water heaters. Bleach is not effective in water above 105 degrees.
* Remove and replace charcoal filters after disinfecting process is complete.
* Clean the work area around the top of the well and flush outside surfaces with half a cup of unscented household bleach in 5 gallons of water.
* Turn off pump and remove cap or well plug on rubber seal. If you have a submersible pump, you may want to contact a licensed well driller for advice.
* After sanitizing, recap or replug the well.
* Turn on, and if needed, reprime the pump by operating the faucets one at a time and allow water to run until there is no noticeable smell of bleach.
* Turn off all the faucets and allow the bleach to remain in the plumbing system for at least eight hours.
* Backwash water softeners, sand filters and iron removal filters with bleach water.
* Open all faucets and run the water for up to 15 minutes until there is no bleach smell.

— Information provided from state Department of Health