Recovery efforts following a hurricane may focus on providing health services to affected people, rebuilding homes and cleaning up communities. But while much storm-related destruction may be in plain sight, there could be further damages below ground - namely, in private water wells.
According to The National Ground Water Association, as many as 750,000 private water wells could be affected by this year's string of hurricanes, plus even more impacted by Hurricane Matthew, which hit the Carolinas in October 2016.
Hurricanes make landfall with incredibly destructive force, and underground infrastructure is not immune to these major storms. In the days following the storm, water treatment plants could be out of operation, leading to little public water supply that's safe to use for drinking, cooking or cleaning.
AccuWeather pointed out that washouts and uprooted trees can break pipes, allowing unsafe substances to enter the well system. Additionally, tidal surges and flooding can introduce contaminants, according to the Florida Department of Health.
These events can cause lasting damage, which is why even those affected by 2016's Hurricane Matthew should consider examining their wells to determine whether the water has been compromised.
If a consumer turns on their tap and dirty water pours out, it's obvious that something is amiss, and it's a cue to not drink the water. But even water that comes out clear may be hiding dangerous bacteria. It's important that consumers not drink their water unless it's been either treated or tested. People with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, young children and the elderly should be particularly cautious when drinking water they aren't positive is safe.
To treat water to use before testing is possible, the Florida Department of Health recommends bringing it to a rolling boil for at least one minute; this will kill any harmful germs. Other options are to use bottled water and adding one-eighth teaspoon of chlorine bleach that contains 4-6 percent active ingredient to one gallon of water and letting it rest for 30 minutes.
Treating water in these manners are only part-time fixes that ultimately are hard to sustain for the long-term. Homeowners may rely on these methods prior to their wells being treated or tested, but it's important that they get their wells back up and running.
If any pipes or other critical elements of a well are broken, the first order of business is to repair or replace these components. Next, it's important to disinfect the well. The Florida Department of Health noted that there are several critical factors for properly disinfecting the well, including:
Once the well is disinfected, the water must be tested to confirm that it's safe to use.
For those recovering from hurricane damage, costs associated with rebuilding, cleaning and replacing items can be challenging to contend with. However, you can't put a price on clean water and healthy consumers. To help your customers regain access to clean drinking water following the impact of a hurricane, offer a financing program. Learn more about how to offer these plans by speaking with Aqua Finance.