WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Residents in flooded areas of Berkshire and Franklin counties 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 water wells can become contaminated by bacteria and pollutants carried in flood waters.
"If you live in an area that was flooded, do not drink private well water until it is tested," said State Coordinating Officer Kurt Schwartz with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). "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 a homeowner suspects there is damage, they should have their septic tank professionally inspected and serviced. Contact the local health department for a list of septic system contractors that work in that 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 Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation officer recommends that if a well has been overtopped by flood waters; wait for the 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.
Water well servicing work should be performed by licensed well drillers or pump installers. Well water analysis should be performed by the local health department or by a state certified laboratory.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.