DEQ offering free well tests

Flood waters cascade over a roadway in southern Pontotoc County recently. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is offering free testing for private wells that were affected by flooding.

Oklahomans whose water wells may have been contaminated due to recent flooding can turn to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality for assistance.

The DEQ is offering free bacteriological testing of private water wells that were affected by flooding in 66 counties, including Coal, Garvin, Murray and Pontotoc counties, the agency said in a news release. The agency is warning people with submerged wells to avoid drinking the water until their well is disinfected and a sample analysis indicates the water is safe.

For disinfection and sampling instructions and supplies, contact DEQ at 800-522-0206. The free testing will be available until May 31.

Wells should be disinfected if they are newly drilled or if an unsafe water sample has been reported, according to the DEQ. Well owners whose home or business has been affected by a disaster, such as a flood or other catastrophe, should also have their wells tested.

“Ordinary liquid laundry bleach may be used to disinfect a well,” the DEQ said in a fact sheet on the subject. “Most liquid laundry bleach contains 8.25 percent chlorine as sodium hypochlorite. The label on the bleach container should show the concentration. Do not use scented or splash-less bleach, since these will contaminate the well.”

Disinfection procedures

The DEQ outlined the following steps for disinfecting a private well:

• Before disinfecting the system, pump the well enough to remove all sediment or other debris due to construction or repairs.

• Remove the well cap or seal and pour enough bleach into the well to make a 50 to 100 parts-per-million solution. Consult the DEQ fact sheet to determine how much bleach to use, based on the well’s diameter and depth. If that information isn’t known, add half a gallon of bleach.

• Attach a garden hose to a nearby outside hydrant and place the other end of the hose in the well opening. Turn the hydrant on and circulate the water back through the well for at least half an hour, which will thoroughly mix the bleach solution. Then turn off the hydrant, remove the hose from the well and reinstall the well cap or seal.

• Open each tap inside the house — both hot and cold — one at a time. When the smell of bleach is present, close the tap. Move on to the next tap and repeat the process until all taps smell of bleach. Then open any outside faucets or connected faucets in outbuildings. The process may take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the system.

• Let the bleached water stand at least 24 hours, if possible, but no less than two hours.

• Open an outside hydrant and flush the system onto the grass until you can no longer smell bleach. This may take several hours, so be careful not to overtax the pump. You may need to flush, pause for a while, then restart the flushing process. When discharging the chlorinated water to the ground, be careful not to discharge it to an adjoining property.

• Open all the taps inside the house and flush until the bleach smell is gone. Repeat the process for any outside taps or connected taps in outbuildings.

• After one week, resample the well to check for bacterial regrowth. Write “Resample” in the “Sampler’s Remarks” section of the chain of custody when submitting the sample to DEQ.

The instructions are available at http://www.deq.state.ok.us/factsheets/SELS/DisinfectIndividualWaterWells_01-2018.pdf. For additional assistance, contact your local environmental specialist.

If you have questions about the testing, contact the DEQ State Environmental Laboratory at 405-702-1000 or 866-412-3057. Questions may also be emailed to selsd@deq.ok.gov.

Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.