Hurricanes, and downpours, and floods - oh my!
Water figures prominently in many natural disasters, both as a cause and as an effect. Heavy rain can cause floods, and hurricanes cause storm surges. This spring saw heavy rains producing record-breaking and devastating flooding in many areas across the Canada, putting water supplies at risk both in cities and in rural areas. Now, as the worst of the spring flooding seems to be behind us (hopefully, at any rate), hurricane season is just around the corner. So it’s a good time to look at the risks to drinking water posed by these natural disasters:
- Infrastructure can be damaged and treatment facilities can be overwhelmed.
- Wells can easily become flooded, introducing contaminated surface water or run-off.
- Septic system failure can occur as a result of saturated soil, introducing another source of drinking water contamination.
Keep drinking water safety top of mind - because your customers won't
In the middle of a natural disaster, most people are going to be focused on saving their loved ones and their homes. Drinking water safety is unlikely to be top of mind. That’s why it’s important for you to help your customers prepare for these increasingly common extreme weather events, and teach them what to do when the flood waters recede.
Here are some tips for hurricane preparedness (though it applies to most natural disasters) from NGWA’s Wellowner.org to pass on to your customers.
Before the Storm:
- Protect the wellhead and pump. Exposure to the elements can lead to damage from debris. This is largely a time and cost savings when it comes to getting the well back up and running.
- Protect electrical components from power surges.
- Fill the bathtub and sinks with water for toilet flushing or hand-washing.
Also, the CDC recommends having emergency food and water supplies. One approach for well owners would be to store water that has been disinfected, by a UV system, for example, in sanitary containers.
After the Storm:
- Inspect the well and equipment. If there's any visible damage, call a professional to have it fixed.
- If flooding is apparent (flood waters have covered the well cap) do not turn on the well pump. Wait until the water recedes.