Test your drinking water for contamination from the flooding

Published: Mar. 16, 2019 at 5:00 PM CDT
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Recent flood conditions can pose threats to the quality of private water supplies. Flooded private water wells or wells suspected of being impacted by flooding may need to be tested to ensure that they are safe according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

“Cloudiness or a change in taste or smell are signs of possible contamination,” said Sue Dempsey, administrator of the DHHS Drinking Water Program. “However, if there is any indication that the water supply has been breached by flood waters, even without noticeable changes in taste or smell, I encourage residents to get a water sample kit for testing.”

Nebraskans can request kits from the Nebraska Public Health Environmental Laboratory to test for coliform bacteria. Order kits online at http://www.nebraska.gov/dhhs/water-test-kits/private.html or by calling (402) 471-3935 between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday.

If people don’t know whether or not their private well has been impacted, only drink bottled, boiled, or disinfected water. To disinfect water bring it to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute. Water may also be disinfected by mixing six drops (1/8 teaspoon) of ordinary household bleach per gallon of water. Mix the solution thoroughly, and let it stand for 30 minutes before using. Very cloudy water may be strained through a clean cloth before disinfecting or boiling, and the amount of household bleach should be doubled.

Since bacterial contamination may reoccur after a flood, conducting another water analysis a month or two after the first test is advised.

Public drinking water supplies are being closely monitored by a team of DHHS field staff and some systems have been impacted by the flooding. Local officials already have or will notify impacted residents as information becomes available.

The State Emergency Operations Center has been opened to address this and other emergencies related to the storms and flooding this week in Nebraska. A link to updates from the SEOC can be found at https://governor.nebraska.gov/ or https://nema.nebraska.gov/news.

DHHS activated its flooding resources webpage at http://dhhs.ne.gov/flooding.

Local health departments are a good resource for more health information and information about cleaning up after a flood. A list of local health departments can be found at http://dhhs.ne.gov/lhd.