MADISON, Wis. -- Residents in flooded areas of Wisconsin should have their septic systems and wells checked for safety, federal and state disaster recovery officials advise.
Floodwaters can cause septic tanks to fill and overflow, resulting in possible health risks and environmental problems. Private wells can become contaminated by bacteria and pollutants carried in flood waters.
?If you live in an area that recently was flooded, do not drink private well water until it is tested,? said Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) Administrator Johnnie Smith. ?If possible, do not use the septic system while your yard is saturated, as wastewater will not be treated and will become a source of pollution.?
If you suspect damage, have your septic tank professionally inspected and serviced. Contact your local health department for a list of septic system contractors that work in your area. Signs of damage include settling or an inability to accept water. Most septic tanks are not damaged by flooding since they are below ground and completely covered. However, septic tanks and pump chambers can fill with silt and debris, and must be cleaned by professionals.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends that if a well has been overtopped by flood waters, wait for the flood water to recede. Thoroughly disinfect the system and then sample and test the water to assure its safety. Well water should be tested at least once a year, especially if there is a noticeable change in taste, smell or appearance.
Well servicing work should be performed by licensed well drillers or pump installers. Well water analysis should be performed by your local health department or by a state certified laboratory. A list of certified laboratories and licensed servicing companies can be found online at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Web site, www.dnr.wi.gov/org/water/dwg/wells.htm.
Residents in disaster-declared counties have until Sept. 15 to apply for federal grants to help with repair or restoration of wells and septic systems. Call the FEMA toll free registration number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for those with speech or hearing impairment. Lines are open from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily until further notice.
People living in the following 30 Wisconsin counties may be eligible for disaster assistance for flood damage to wells and septic systems: Adams, Calumet, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, La Crosse, Manitowoc, Marquette, Milwaukee, Monroe, Ozaukee, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Sheboygan, Vernon, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha and Winnebago.
FEMA coordinates the federal government?s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.