Emergency Well and Septic

Emergency Well and Septic System Information After Flooding

People who rely on private wells for their water should consider their well contaminated if it was submerged or they believe it is possible the well became submerged during the hurricane.

Water should not be consumed until bacteriological testing indicates the well is not contaminated. Two samples taken on consecutive days are recommended. See Water Bacteria Testing below for information on testing your well water.

Emergency logo If you are unsure if the well was flooded, assume that it was and use another water source until the safety of the well is confirmed. Disinfect your well. by adding household bleach mixed with water to the well. The recommended amount of bleach varies depending on the amount of water in the well; however a half-gallon of unscented bleach should be adequate for most home wells. To be certain that your water lines have been disinfected, turn on the faucets until a chlorine smell is detected. Turn off the faucets and allow the bleach to sit in the well for at least four hours (overnight is preferable). The water should then be turned on until the chlorine smell dissipates.

Water must be tested after this is done to ensure that the chlorine has destroyed bacteria. High levels of contamination may not be controlled by a single chlorine treatment.

Until the well water is confirmed to be safe, water used for drinking, brushing teeth or cooking or preparing food should be either bottled water or water that has been boiled for a minimum of one minute.

Water Bacteria Testing.
In the event of a hurricane or tornado emergency, the Fairfax County Health Department Laboratory is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day to perform Water Bacteria testing. If you are in need of these services, please use the following contact information:
Main office during normal business hours (Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.) 703-246-3218
After Hours Emergency Pager 703-213-8849

Septic Systems
If flooding has occurred, homes may have a damaged or failing onsite sewage system. The system should be checked to determine if septic area has been flooded or the system has been damaged. If any part of the system is exposed or appears damaged, people should contact their local health department to receive recommendations for proper corrections.

If the septic system has been flooded, sewage can back up into the home. This is more than just a serious nuisance. Sewage contains disease causing microorganisms. When cleaning up be sure to wear gloves, disinfect contaminated surfaces with diluted bleach water, and thoroughly wash yourself and your clothing immediately after cleaning.

If there is an electrical outage septic systems utilizing pumps will not function. A continued use of water in the home could lead to a sewage backup. Water usages in the home should be held to a minimum until the electrical power is restored. If there is evidence that the pump chamber has been flooded, be sure to check that surface water did not leak into the system. This can be accomplished by removing the concrete lid of the pump chamber. Excessive water entering the pump chamber can easily overload the drainfield causing more expensive repairs. Contact the health department for guidance or a septic system contractor.Emergency Response logo

If the system is acting sluggish, this may be a normal reaction to saturated soils around the drainfield. Sewage leaving the septic tank may not be able to seep into the ground because the soil is already saturated. After a major rainfall event like a hurricane, it may take several days for the soils to drain and allow your system to return to normal. When the system is sluggish due to saturated soil around the drainfield, simply pumping the tank may not provide any improvement. Water will simply flow in reverse, filling the septic tank. Water use should be held to a minimum.

After a Power Outage

Septic Tank Systems with Pumps

Interruption of the electrical power supply will prevent sewage effluent pumps serving septic tank systems from pumping sewage effluent into the drainfield area of the system. Alarm systems installed to indicate failure of the pumping system will also be inoperative. Occupants of homes or other structures with such systems should conserve water use by taking laundry elsewhere (to a Laundromat), showering/bathing less often, using disposable foodservice items, and by not flushing the toilet after every se. Overflow of the septic tank, pumping station, and/or sewage back-ups into the structure can be avoided by having the contents of the septic tank and/or pump station pumped by a licensed sewage-handling contractor. If an overflow outside the dwelling occurs, the tanks must be pumped and the affected area spread with hydrated lime.

Well Water Supply Systems

In the event that electrical power is not available, well water cannot be supplied unless an alternate source of power is available (generator power). Purchase and use of bottled water for drinking and culinary purposes is recommended. Water for use in toilets can be obtained from other sources such as creeks and streams. Some water may be obtained by draining water storage tanks (including the hot water heater) and melting ice cubes. Water conservation methods must be employed.

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Technical Questions: Web Administrator

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