Melting snow and spring rain may contaminate private wells and drinking water, authorities said Thursday.
“Our recent rain, mixed precipitation and local flooding throughout the state is a reminder that changing spring weather can lead to well contamination,” said Liesa Lehmann, private water section chief for the state Department of Natural Resources.
“At this time of year we encourage well owners to watch for signs of flooding and note any change in the color, smell or taste of their drinking water.”
Owners who see floodwaters very near or over their wells should assume their drinking water could be contaminated, Lehmann said.
If any of those signs are present, the following steps are recommended by the DNR:
Stop drinking the water and find another safe source.
Once the waters recede, make sure the well is properly disinfected.
Before drinking the water again, sample the well to assure the water is safe.
Floodwaters and rain runoff may contain bacteria and other contaminants that can affect water supplies and cause illness.
Wells located in pits, basements and low-lying areas are especially susceptible to contamination.
“Disinfection ... is best done by a licensed well driller or pump installer,” Lehmann said.
Any water supply system that has been submerged in floodwaters should be pumped out once the floodwater recedes, then thoroughly disinfected and tested to determine that the water is safe, she said.
The Kenosha County Health Department offers well testing. Three types of well tests — for fluoride, nitrates and total coliform levels — are available. The cost is $27 per test, or $70 for all three.
“Wells should be tested annually and any time the well cap is submerged due to flooding,” said Cynthia Johnson, Kenosha County Health director and health officer. “Standing water over a well presents health hazards that you may not recognize until you have your water tested. This service is available through the Kenosha County Division of Health, and I recommend it for people whose homes are served by wells.”
There are some required steps for collecting water samples, including:
Use a cold water faucet that, if possible, is not connected to a water softener.
Remove faucet attachments such as screens or aerators.
Run the tap water for three to four minutes prior to collecting the sample.
Transfer it in an insulated carrier containing ice.
The laboratory will accept water samples Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Warm or late samples will not be accepted.
A verbal report is available the following day, and a written report is sent via mail.
To obtain a well water test collection kit, call 262-605-6700 or 800-472-8008.
More information on bacterial contamination of drinking water wells, along with lists of licensed well drillers, pump installers and labs certified to analyze water samples, can be found at https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wells/.