Water may not be safe to drink, cook or clean with after an emergency such as a flood. During and after flooding, water can become contaminated with microorganisms such as bacteria, sewage, heating oil, agricultural or industrial waste, chemicals and other substances that can cause serious illness.
People with private drinking water wells in flooded areas should assume that their water is contaminated, and take all precautions if:
- the well was covered with floodwaters or located near flooding
- there has been a change in water quality (odor or taste)
Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute or use a safe source.
Until a water test confirms that the water is safe, get water from a known safe source or boil for 1 minute to use for:
- making juice or ice
- washing fruit and vegetables
- brushing teeth
DO NOT USE water for infant formula until a water test confirms it is safe.
DO NOT USE water at all for any purpose if water has the smell of petroleum or chemicals. Call the Health Department's drinking water program at 1-800-439-8550 (toll free in Vermont) for guidance.
For a free water test kit after flooding, contact your nearest Health Department district office or your town health officer.
Total Coliform/E. coli Presence/Absence test (called ‘Kit A’) will test for a large group of soil and intestinal bacteria that indicate possible contamination of your well. Coliform and other bacteria will not necessarily make you sick. However, if water testing finds that these organisms have been able to enter your water supply, this means that other contaminants could enter as well. If Total Coliform bacteria are found during testing, the water is then checked to see if the contamination has a fecal source. This result indicates whether animal or human waste has entered the water recently.
- First disinfect your well. After flooding, you must disinfect your drinking water supply before testing to get a true result. (See below.)
- Then collect your water sample. After you have disinfected, carefully follow the directions that come with Kit A. The Health Department Laboratory must receive the water sample within 30 hours of the sample being taken, so plan ahead. If it’s Friday, wait until Monday to collect and mail your sample.
• How to take a water sample for testing (Kit A – Total Coliform/E. coli test)
• Video: How to Take a Drinking Water Sample – from the Vermont Natural Resources Council
Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Until testing shows that your water is safe to use, continue to use boiled water.
Disinfection of Private Wells
For more information and complete directions on how to disinfect your water supply, see Drinking Water Disinfection.
If you have questions, call the Health Department’s Drinking Water program at
1-800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont) or 802-863-7220, Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.