In advance of Hurricane Sandy, Rhode Islanders with private wells should be aware of two serious, weather-related issues that could affect their water supplies.
Significant rainfall can cause wells to flood, potentially contaminating well water. High winds can cause power outages, leaving pumps unable to draw water.
Rhode Islanders who use private wells should take several important steps:
BEFORE THE STORM
Examine your well and make sure that: - the casing and cap have no cracks and are secure. - the ground around the well slopes away from the well, promoting runoff. Have a fresh water supply for three days for each person and pet in your home. Fill the bathtub(s) with water prior to the storm (for use in flushing toilets and emergency use). Have a fresh bottle of unscented chlorine bleach (to sanitize water, if needed). Water disinfecting instructions should be on the bottle, if not see below.
DURING THE STORM If safe to do so, check around your well for flooding and standing water during a storm. If water is around your well, note if it is moving quickly and contains debris. (Water that is moving quickly can loosen well casings). Note if it is possible for water to overtop the well. Consider flipping the circuit breaker for the well until after the storm passes.
AFTER THE STORM
Conserve your fresh water supply and the bathtub waterit may take days to get power back or to disinfect the well. Re-examine your well and the area around your well. Ensure that the well's casing and cap have no cracks and are still secure. Note the size and amount of debris near your well. If your electricity has been restored, your well is not damaged, and the surrounding area is not flooded, flip the circuit breaker to the well back on. Make sure your water runs cold and clear. If there is a question about whether your water is safe to drink, get your well water tested.
Emergency Chlorination Process When there is immediate need for safe water, you can use household bleach to disinfect water that you think may not be safe to drink. Check the bottle's label to see what the percentage of chlorine in the bleach. Using the information below, determine the appropriate number of drops to add to your water.
1% chlorine Use 10 drops per quart of clear water 4 to 6 % chlorine Use 2 drops per quart of clear water 7 to 10 % chlorine Use 1 drop per quart of clear water Strength unknown Use 10 drops per quart of clear water
Mix the chlorine into the water and allow it to stand covered for 30 minutes before using. The water should have a mild chlorine smell. If it is too strong, let it stand another 15 minutes without a cover.
Double the amount of chlorine if the water is cloudy, colored, or extremely cold.
For regularly updated information on Hurricane Sandy, visit www.riema.ri.gov