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Food and Water Safety After a Flood
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Private well flooding
Drinking water
Food safety
Food and water safety factsheets


Private well flooding

If you think your well has been affected by flooding waters, EPA recommends the following first steps:
  1. Stay away from the well pump while flooded to avoid electric shock.
  2. Do not drink or wash from the flooded well to avoid becoming sick
  3. Get assistance from a well or pump contractor to clean and turn on the pump.
  4. After the pump is turned back on, pump the well until the water runs clear to rid the well of flood water. If the water does not run clear, have your water tested.

**CAUTION**  Your well may not be a safe source of water for many months after a flood. The well can become contaminated with bacteria or other contaminants over time and cause short and long term health effects. Wastewater from malfunctioning septic tanks or chemicals seeping into the ground can contaminate the groundwater even after the water was tested and found to be safe. Repeated testing is strongly recommended to protect the safety of your drinking water.

You should follow similar procedures should any other disaster occur (ie: fire, snowstorm, etc.).


Additional Resources


Drinking Water

During storm events, water purification systems may not be functioning fully. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Your state, local, or tribal health department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area. Here are some general rules concerning water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene.
Here are some general guidelines to keep you healthy and safe when water purification systems are not fully function. Keep these in mind when using water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene.
How to make your drinking water safe
                    • Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. This will kill harmful organisms. Boiling water  is the preferred way to kill harmful bacteria and parasites.
                    • If boiling water is not an option, use bottled water and  make sure it came from a safe source. If you do not know that the water came from a safe source, you should boil or chemically treat it before you use it.
                    • If you don’t have clean, safe, bottled water and if boiling is not possible, you often can make water safer to drink as a last resort by using a disinfectant, such as unscented household chlorine bleach, iodine, or chlorine dioxide tablets.
                      These can kill most harmful organisms.
                    • Use EPA's guidelines for disinfecting of small quantities of drinking water.
                    • Home treatment devices that do not boil or chemically disinfect the water with acceptable disinfectants are not considered reliable alternatives to boiling the water.    
                    • Use only bottled, boiled, or treated water until your supply is tested and found safe.


                    Additional Resources

Food and Water Safety Factsheets

                    • Making drinking water safe during floods (pdf): English (Oregon Health Authority)
                    • Keeping food safe during an emergency (pdf): English (Oregon Health Authority)
                    • What to do when your well is flooded (pdf): English (Oregon Health Authority)
                    • Food and water safety fact sheet (pdf): Spanish | Vietnamese | Chinese | (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)
                    • Food and water safety fact sheet: Russian (Seattle King County Health Department)
                    • Food and water safety fact sheet (pdf): Tagalog | Korean (Ada City-County Emergency Management, Idaho)