Flood leaves behind mold, contaminated wells and sewage problems

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flood pic's in knoxville,il 4-18-13 (submitted photo)

Flood waters are receding and as residents clean up their homes health concerns are arising.

The Rock Island County Health Department said health and environmental issues include pollution of water wells, malfunction of sewage disposal systems, and poor indoor air quality.

According to the health department, flood waters can pollute water wells by entering through the well cap or vent and drain into the groundwater below. Even an above-ground well can be contaminated by neighboring wells that come into contact with polluted flood waters.

The department recommends people test their water supply for coliform bacteria and not assume water is immediately safe to drink.

Test water about two weeks after the flood when contaminants have been pumped out of the ground.

People should not use water for cooking or drinking. And it is recommended residents use bottled water until a water test says it is safe again.

After flood waters are gone, property owners should pump water from the well onto the ground’s surface to flush out the system until water appears clear. If your well is underwater, a shock chlorination needs to be done before the water can be tested. This can be done with bleach or swimming pool chlorination granules.

Before chlorinating a well, consult the department, read the “Disinfecting a Well” section of the Precautions Against Disease in Flood areas page on the health department website, or call a qualified water well or pump contractor regarding the proper methods.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is offering free water sample analysis for residents in flooded areas, according to a spokesperson from the Rock Island health department.

Home owners with submerged wells are encouraged to extend their well casing at least two feet above the maximum flood level, preventing floodwaters from entering the well in the future.

Residents with private sewage disposal systems may be experiencing system failures, sewage back-ups, or discharging wastewater onto the ground or into the river.

The health department suggests that pumping the tank may restore service. If you have an aerobic treatment unit, the servicing dealer needs to be contacted to assess damage and restore proper operation.

Air quality can be affected if mold starts to grow on items that come into contact with floodwaters.

The health department recommends possessions be removed, dried, cleaned or restored within a couple of days or mold can become a major concern.

If you are cleaning and removing moldy items from your home, it is recommended that you wear an N-95 or HEPA filter facemask to minimize exposure to spores or other particles.

Whether or not a certain item can be saved depends on the type of material at hand. Restoration companies can assist you. If immediate steps are not taken, items will not be salvageable and will affect air quality. Mold in a home can lead to health issues.

The following agencies have websites which have information on mold, cleanup and other safety recommendations: Illinois Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Public Health, USEPA, and the Centers for Disease Control.

If you have questions contact the Rock Island County Health Department, Division of Environmental Health at 309-558-2840.

For some quick safety tips go to the Illinois Department of Public Health “After the Flood” website.