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Post-Hurricane, Post-Flood, Private Water Wells, and Septic Systems

As Hurricane Dorian moves closer to the coast, I wanted to provide some resources and things to think about for recovery efforts if needed.

With the Hurricane there could be large volumes of rain in the local area and drainage from areas further up in the watershed.  If there is flooding in your area here are some things to think about and some resources for private water wells and septic systems (including sewer).

Private Water Wells:

There is a CAES Publication (C-1124) titled “Ensuring Safe Private Well Water for Household Use After a Flood” that can be used by homeowners to make sure they are being as safe as possible with their drinking water.  A few of the key points are: 1) Inspect the well to see if there is visible damage, 2) check the electrical system to determine if there has been damaged and make sure main breaker is “OFF” prior to doing any work on the system, 3) If possible check the pump to determine if it has been clogged as a result of sediment, and 4) Decontaminate the well prior to drinking.

 

Septic systems (and sewer for clean-up)

The septic system is one thing most homeowners do not think of to start with, but during and after flooding conditions, the septic system should also be on the “What to do after a Flood” checklist.

A few of the ideas and things to think about are:

  • Don’t pump the tank during a condition when the adsorption field is flooded or saturated. The pumping could be a temporary fix, but if the ground is saturated around the tank, it could “float” which is a larger issue.
  • Once the flood water has receded some ideas to think about are:
    1. If on a private well, don’t drink the water until it has been tested. Also see information above concerning “Private Water Wells”.
    2. Don’t use septic system until the water level in the adsorption field is lower than the water level around the house. Water in the septic tank has to move into this adsorption field and if the water level is at or higher than the house, the water may not go out of the house.
    3. If there is water in the house and a sump pump is used to move water out, discharge water outside the house and not in a sink or other place that would drain to septic tank. The mud and debris in the water being removed would settle in the septic tank and cause further problems.  NOTE: this also applies to homes on sewer systems.  Pumping water with mud or debris will potentially clog the sewer system as well, so pump water outside the home.
    4. If the soil around the house is wet, avoid driving over the adsorption field. This will reduce the potential of compacting the soil over the adsorption fields and reducing its ability to accept and treat the water from the septic tank.
  • One of the best things to do in a situation where the adsorption field has been flooded and the soil is wet is to reduce the amount of water that enters the septic tank.

 

For more information see the following websites and publications:

  1. UGA CAES Publication titled: “A Beginner’s Guide to Septic Systems
  2. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Septic System website at: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/septic-systems-what-do-after-flood.
  3. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency publication titled “What to do with your septic system after a flood
  4. Onsite Installer Magazine articles titled:
    1. Advice for in home cleanup of sewage spills and flooding
    2. How to assess and rehabilitate flooded onsite systems 

If you have questions feel free to contact me (Gary L. Hawkins) at 706-310-3516 or .