Most of us understand the devastation that floods can have on our homes and businesses, but are you aware of how prolonged and heavy rainfall can compromise water supply safety. After a season of rainy weather, regional flooding and sewer overflow warnings, it is easy to assume that all the problems will end as the rain stops. Unfortunately, this can be a mistake and to ensure safety; you should be aware of the measures necessary to protect your water supply.
Municipal Water Supplies
Most cities or municipalities have a combined sewer system that has the same waste lines to carry rainwater and sewage. This is not a problem when it rains lightly, but when there is more than ¼ inch of rainwater, the system can be flooded. Flooding allows the sewage and wastewater to be spilled out into rivers and streams. Some municipalities have provisions for alerting consumers if the sewer lines have overflowed, but these there tends to be a consistency between heavy rainfall and sewers overflowing.
Additionally, while it is less common, severe rainfall and flooding can also cause drops in water pressure. This can create a scenario for bacterial contamination, so your city may issue boil water alerts. These advisories mean water needs to be boiled before use in cooking or drinking. According to CDC advice, during a boil water alert, the water is still safe for laundry, bathing, using the dishwasher or shaving, but for every other use, such as preparing food, rinsing foods or brushing teeth, the water should be boiled for a minimum of a minute.
Private Well Supplies
If your water is sourced from a private well, your supply may be at the highest contamination risk. Rainfall will cause the water level to rise to above your well cap; this will allow surface water and any debris or contaminants in it to enter the well. Although this may not seem like a dangerous problem, it could allow weed killer used in landscaping, the fertilizer you’ve used on your plants and bacteria from pet fecal deposits in your yard to be washed into your drinking water.
If you have concerns your well may have been contaminated, boiling water may not be enough to ensure it’s safe. If your water contains nitrates, pesticides, or other chemicals, it will need proper treatment to eliminate the potentially harmful contaminants.
What To Do After an Unsafe Water Event
Even if you have had a certified lab test your water to declare it safe or a boil water advisory has been lifted, you will still need to be vigilant. There are several things to do so you can be sure your family is safe.
Firstly, you will need to flush your plumbing system. Contaminated and unsafe water may be lingering in your pipes and appliances, so you will need to flush every water dispenser or faucet for a minimum of a few minutes. Any water or ice collected when the water was not safe should be discarded.
You will also need to avoid any areas where combined sewer systems drain. These types of areas could be contaminated for a few days after heavy rainfall. If you cannot avoid a potentially contaminated area, be sure that you wash thoroughly after coming in contact with the water.
Finally, you will need to clean the filters inside your water using appliances.
Your local water treatment company can guide you through the appropriate water treatment options.
By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.