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Check on Private Wells, Sewer Systems After Flooding


September 9, 2021

Flooding like the Cove experienced last week can cause serious damage to farmland and homes. While most damage is very visible, one area that might be overlooked is damage to private wells and sewer systems. Flooding can damage and contaminate those systems, and the Penn State Extension office wants rural Pennsylvanians to be aware of possible problems with their systems.

After a flood, homeowners with private wells should inspect those systems for damage and test their drinking water for bacteria. Signs of well damage may include a cracked or shifted well casing; a missing or damaged well cap; erosion or mud deposits around the well casing, inside the well pit if casing terminates below ground, or inside the well itself if the casing was topped by floodwaters. The homeowner should not attempt repairs. Repairs should be done by a licensed well driller or a professional pump installer to ensure safety.

If a well only experienced minor erosion around the casing, owners can try to repair it themselves by regrading and reseeding the area and packing fresh soil around the pipe in the shape of a cone to shed water away.

More significant damage like a shifted casing or sediment in the well should be handled by a licensed well driller or professional pump installer. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recommends that water used for cooking and drinking be boiled before use until the well is inspected and disinfected, if needed. Water should be tested and cleared by a state accredited laboratory before regular consumption resumes.

Septic systems can also be damaged by flooding. Heavy rains can saturate the system’s drain field causing slow drainage. Those experiencing slow drains in their home after a flood should reduce the amount of water used in their home until the ground dries out. Do not repair the drain field until the ground has dried. Attempting repairs on saturated soil can cause soil compaction and damage.

Septic systems may be damaged if they will not accept new waste or backs up in the home. If either happens, stop using water in the house until the ground dries out. Do not try to pump the system yourself, as the groundwater water will refill it and potentially damage the system and release dangerous sewer gases. The damaged septic system and drain field should be inspected by a professional and repaired as necessary.

The Blair County Extension office is located 266 Aviation Way in Martinsburg. The phone number is (814) 940-5989.

The Bedford County Extension office is located at 120 West John Street, Bedford. The phone number is (814) 623-4800.


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