Flood Waters Pose Health Risks

Tips for Residents in Floodplains

More people have been killed by flooding from a hurricane's torrential rains than from any other cause. Such rains can cause rivers to flood and submerge roadways. Flood warnings are issued to let you know that flooding is occurring or is expected to occur. Tips:

  • Keep materials on hand, such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, plastic garbage bags, lumber and shovels.
  • Be aware of streams, canals and areas known to flood, so you or your evacuation routes are not cut off.
  • As little as one foot of moving water can move most cars off the road!
  • Just six inches of fast-moving floodwater can sweep a person off their feet.
  • Do not wade through or allow children to play in flood waters. Power lines may have fallen and cannot be seen causing deadly shock - or may be contaminated with deadly bacteria.
  • Do not attempt to drive on flooded roads or bridges. Most flood-related deaths occur at night and are vehicular.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Listen to local radio stations and the National Weather Service or your weather radio for flood watches and warnings.
  • Flor flood insurance, call the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-427-4661. Remember, flood damage is not covered by a home-owner's insurance policy. Flood insurance must be purchased separately and ahead of time to be valid.

For Your Health

Although skin contact with flood waters does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, health hazards are a concern when waters become contaminated. Flood waters contain fecal material, associated with bacteria and viruses.

After recent flooding in our area the Department of Health recommends the following precautions to prevent possible illness from flood waters:

  • Basic hygiene is critical. Wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before preparing or eating food, after toilet use, after participating in flood cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything that has been contaminated with flood water.
  • Do not wade through standing water. If you do, bathe and put on clean clothes as soon as possible.
  • Avoid contact with flood waters if you have open cuts or sores. If you have any open cuts or sores and cannot avoid contact with flood waters, keep them clean as possible by washing well with soap to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate attention. Residents who sustain lacerations and/or puncture wounds and have not had a tetanus vaccination within the past 10 years, require a tetanus booster.
  • If there is a back flow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard absorbent household materials, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and Sheetrock. Clean walls and hard-surfaced floors with soap and water and disinfect with a solution of 1/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Thoroughly disinfect food contact surfaces(counter tops, refrigerators, tables) and areas where small children play. Wash linens and clothing in hot water. Air dry larger items in the sun and spray them with a disinfectant. Steam all carpeting.
If your plumbing is functioning slowly or sluggishly, you should:

Conserve water as much as possible; the less water used the less sewage the septic tank must process. Minimize use of your washing machine. Go to a laundromat. Rental of a portable toilet for a temporary period may be another option.

What To Do If Your Well Is Flooded

Heavy rainfall may have made your water unsafe. If you are unsure about the impact of flooding on your well water, either use bottled water, or boil or disinfect all the water you use for drinking, making beverages, cooking, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, and washing areas of the skin that have been cut or injured.

Common unscented household bleach (4 to 6%) can be used effectively as chlorine disinfectant. Bring water to rolling boil for one minute; disinfect it by adding 8 drops (about 1/8 teaspoon) of unscented household bleach per gallon of water, and then let it stand for about 30 minutes. Repeating this procedure if the water is still cloudy.

If your well has been flooded, please call the Walton County Health Department, Environmental Health Office for information on how to sample your water and where to take the sample for bacteriological testing. If the test reveals bacteria, the well and water system need to be disinfected.

It is important to disinfect both the well and plumbing water with unscented household bleach to ensure that all infectious agents are destroyed. If you have water treatment devices, remove all membranes, cartridges, and filters and replace them after the chlorination process is completed. The amount of chlorine determines the length of time you allow the bleach to remain in your system.

The Department of Health recommends the following steps to disinfect a contaminated well:

  • If the water is discolored before adding the bleach, run the water until it is clear for up to 10 minutes.
  • Turn off and then drain your hot water heater, bleach is not effective in water above 105 degrees.
  • Remove and replace charcoal filters after the disinfecting process is completed.
    To avoid adding contamination to the well during disinfection, clean the work area around the top of the well. then remove grease and mineral deposits from accessible parts of the well head and flush the outside surfaces with 1/2 cup of unscented household bleach in 5 gallons of water.
  • Turn off the pump. Remove the cap or the well plug on the rubber seal. There are many types of well caps and plugs. If you have questions, you should contact a licensed well driller. If you have a submersible pump, you may also want to contact a licensed well driller for advise on disinfection procedures.

Consult the bleach chart and pour the recommended amount of unscented bleach(4-6%) solution into the well. Try to coat the sides of the casing as you pour. If you get bleach on the pump or wiring, flush it thoroughly with fresh water to prevent later corrosion.
Well Depth in Feet 

Well Diameter in Inches 
2" 4" 5"  6"
 20'  1 cup  1 cup
 1 cup
 1 cup
 30'  1 cup
 1 cup
 1 cup
 2 cups
 40'  1 cup
 1 cups
 2 cups
 2 cups
 50'  1 cup
 2 cups  2 cups  3 cups
 80'  1 cup  2 cups  1 qt  1 qt
 100'  1 cup  3 cups  1 qt  1.5 qts
150'  2 cups  1 qt  2 qts  2.5 qts
 200'  3 cups  1.5 qts  2.5 qts  3 qts

 1 cup
8 oz = 1 cup
16 oz = 1 pint
24 oz = 3 cups
32 oz = 1 quart
48 oz = 1.5 quarts
64 oz = 2 quarts
80 oz = 2.5 quarts
96 oz = 3 quarts

Re-cap or plug the well opening and wait for 30 minutes.

Turn on and, if needed, re-prime the pump. Open all of the faucets on the system one at a time. Allow the water to run until there is a noticeable smell of bleach. You may also want to flush the toilets. If you have outside faucets, you may want to direct the water away from sensitive plants. If you cannot detect a bleach odor, repeat the disinfecting process.

Turn off all faucets and allow the bleach to remain in the system for at least eight hours.

Backwash water softeners, sand filters, and iron removal filters with bleach water.
Again, open all the faucets and run the water until there is no bleach smell- for up to 15 minutes.

After disinfecting your well, the water needs to be tested to verify that it is safe to drink. Although unscented household bleach is effective against microorganisms, it will not remove chemical contamination that may have gotten into your well. Contact the Florida Department of Health in Walton County, Environmental Health Office at (850) 892-8021 or http://www.floridahealth.gov/chdwalton/Env_Health/EnvHealth.htm.