Floodwater can contaminate well water with livestock waste, human sewage, and other contaminants that lead to illness when used for drinking, bathing, and other personal hygiene.
If your drinking water comes from a public water system, contact them if you’re unsure if it’s safe to drink. You can find contact information on your water bill.
If your drinking water comes from a well that has been covered or surrounded by floodwaters, your water can be made safe to drink by boiling, using disinfectants, or filtering. The treatments described below work only to remove bacteria or viruses from water.
If boiling is not possible, you often can make water safe to drink by using a disinfectant, like unscented household chlorine bleach. This method will kill most viruses and bacteria. Follow instructions for disinfecting your water carefully.
Many portable water filters can remove disease-causing parasites from drinking water. Filters don’t remove bacteria or viruses. If you are choosing a portable water filter:
If your well is affected by flooding, follow these steps to have it tested and made safe for drinking again.
If you wish to disinfect your well yourself, follow these well disinfection instructions from the Washington State Department of Health.
Still have questions?
There are many health risks to consider when returning to a location that’s been flooded. Risks to health and safety can include but are not limited to, such things as spoiled food, contaminated water, mold, and sewage.
Do not attempt to drive on roads that have been closed. Follow, and adhere to, road closure and safety signage. There may be road damage that is not visible.
For information and tips on how to stay healthy and safe around flood water see the following resources: