GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida IFAS Extension has teamed up with Virginia Tech to offer free bacteria testing for well users affected by Hurricane Irma. So far, five counties—Lee, Pasco, Marion, Sarasota and Clay—are participating.
UF/IFAS Extension is targeting communities affected by flooding that occurred during and after Hurricane Irma. “Residents who have private water wells affected by flooding should assume their water is contaminated by bacteria,” said Andrea Albertin, UF/IFAS regional water resources agent for the northwest district, who is coordinating the effort in Florida. “And, water from a flooded well should not be used for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth or even washing areas of the skin that have been cut or injured until it is tested.”
For example, in Sarasota County, the Myakka River flooded after the hurricane and impacted cities including North Port, Venice and Sarasota, said Abbey Tyrna, a water resource agent with the UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County office. The tests will check for key disease-causing bacteria possibly carried into wells by floodwaters, including coliform bacteria and E. coli, she said.
“Well owners should test for harmful bacteria annually and after any major flood,” Tyrna said. “If a well is inundated by flood waters or surface water, bacterial contamination is likely.”
Unlike public water systems, which are regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, private wells are the responsibility of the well owners/users, Tyrna said.
Tyrna offers these tips if your well is flooded:
- Stay away from the well pump while flooded to avoid electric shock.
- Do not drink or wash from the flooded well to avoid becoming sick.
- Get assistance from a well or pump contractor to clean and disinfect your well before turning on the pump.
- After the pump is turned back on, pump the well until the water runs clear to rid the well of floodwater.
- If the water does not run clear, get advice from the county or state health department or UF/IFAS Extension.
For more information, contact your local county Extension office. Click here to find that information.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.