LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — For the majority of Arkansans, water quality is something the local water department has to worry about. But for roughly 150,000 private well owners in the Natural State, water quality is their responsibility and floodwaters can put that at risk.
The infrastructure of local water departments along the Arkansas River has certainly been put to the test during the state’s historic flooding.
“There was one water system near Toad Suck that lost some lines, they were submerged and they had to valve them off and those will be repaired later,” said Jeff Stone, director of the drinking water engineering section at the Arkansas Department of Health.
“There was another water system [Dardanelle] that did have a well that became flooded, but they had other sources to rely on,” said Stone.
Stone said most of the state’s water systems have back-up plans in place in case of emergencies, and the majority along the Arkansas River have planned their water systems to be able to avoid flooding.
“For the most part, their sources of – their well locations – are at higher elevations that have been able to escape a lot of the damage,” said Stone.
But for flooded homeowners on private wells, flood damage could be hiding underneath their yards, with potentially tainted floodwaters seeping into the well’s supply of drinking water. The process of cleaning and having a private well evaluated after a flood is somewhat lengthy.
“It starts with flushing the well once it’s running to where it clears up and you’re sort of pumping groundwater again,” said Stone. “Then you disinfect and you let the disinfectant sit overnight, and then you flush again and you sample and wait for the result.”
ADH is waiving the $17 fee for flood victims to have private wells tested for bacterial contamination. A water sampling kit is available for free at each of the state’s 75 local county health units.
While private well owners await test results, Stone suggests using “bottled water until they can get their power restored and get their well operating again.” Stone said to also be aware of potential electrical dangers when turning a flooded well pump back on.
The Environmental Protection Agency provides more detailed steps for emergency disinfection of private wells on the Department of Health’s website.