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Protect your water well, septic system after flood

The Douglas County Health Department would like to share some information on flooding for those with private water wells. Douglas County has had recent flooding and may experience more with expected heavy precipitation. Your water well is a potential source of contaminates such as E-coli and coliform bacteria. Regular maintenance and testing can ensure safe drinking water for your family.

Water wells can be a source of contamination through overloading of the ground water supply. Floods can bring in contaminates from septic systems, agricultural dangers such as pesticides and fertilizers, as well as other sources into your drinking water. In addition, coarse sediment and debris can cause physical damage to your well. Electrical components, such as the pump, also run the risk of electrical shock when flooded. In this case, do not use rubber boots as your only protection; instead turn off the pump if able and contact a professional electrician.

Wells should be considered contaminated until they have been properly tested. It is recommended to use boiled or bottled water following a flood until the water has been tested. This includes drinking, cooking, and bathing. Free water testing kits are available at the Douglas County Health Department. Results will be given back with water well disinfecting procedures if required.

Besides being a source of contamination to your groundwater, special precautions also need to be made for your septic system, including:

  • Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house.
  • Plug all basement drains.
  • Limit water usage.
  • Have your septic tank professionally inspected and serviced if you suspect damage.
  • Only trained specialists should clean or repair septic tanks because of possible dangerous gases.
  • If sewage has backed up into the basement, clean the area and disinfect the floor using a chlorine solution of a half cup of bleach to each gallon of water.
  • Examine electrical connections for damage before restoring electricity.
  • Do not compact soil over the absorption field by driving equipment or vehicles over it.
  • Be sure the tank’s manhole cover is secure with inspection ports unblocked or damaged.
  • Check vegetation and repair as necessary to provide turf grass cover.
  • Have your septic tank pumped once safe levels have been reached.

Water and sewage safety are extremely important in the event of a flood.  Follow all necessary precautions and contact the health department with questions at (217) 253-4137 or email The health department is located at 1250 E US Hwy 36, Tuscola, IL 61953.

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