Recent flood conditions pose serious threats to the quality of private water supplies, according to the head of the Office of Drinking Water and Environmental Health of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
“Flooded private water wells or wells suspected of being impacted by flooding may need to be tested to ensure that there has been no bacterial contamination,” said Jack Daniel. “There are currently no problems with public drinking water supplies.”
"Water from private water wells in flooded areas should not be considered safe for drinking until tests from a certified laboratory have shown there is no contamination," Daniel said. "Cloudiness or a change in taste or smell are signs of possible contamination."
If there is any indication that the water supply has been breached by flood waters, even without noticeable changes in taste or smell, the Department advises residents to obtain a water sample kit for bacteriological testing from the DHHS Environmental Health Laboratory by calling (402) 471-3935.
Until your water supply is tested and found safe, Daniel said, drink only commercially bottled, boiled, or disinfected water. Since bacterial contamination may reoccur after a flood, conducting another water analysis a month or two after the first test is advised.
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.
Your local health department can be consulted for information about cleaning up after a flood. A list of local health departments can be found at http://dhhs.ne.gov/lhd.