Free testing for Wharton County private water well owners after Hurricane Harvey

Contacts: Dr. Diane Boellstorff, 979-458-3562, dboellstorff@tamu.edu
Drew Gholson, 979-845-1461, dgholson@tamu.edu

WHARTON — Wharton County area residents who want to have their well water tested should pick up a free water sampling test kit from their local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office, said Dr. Diane Boellstorff, AgriLife Extension water resource specialist, College Station.

Wharton County area residents have an opportunity to have their well water tested to see if it has been contaminated by flooding from Hurricane Harvey. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

Private water well owners whose wells flooded from the recent rains should assume their well water is contaminated until tested, Boellstorff said.

“You should not use water from a flooded well for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing your teeth or even bathing until you are satisfied it is not contaminated,” she said.

AgriLife Extension, Virginia Tech and the Rural Community Assistance Program are offering free well water testing to private well users who were affected by Hurricane Harvey as a means to improve understanding of a flood’s impact on private wells and to enhance communications on well water quality.

Wharton County area residents can pick up a free water sampling test kit starting Sept. 14 at the AgriLife Extension office at 315 E. Milam St., Suite 112, in Wharton. Instructions will be included with the kits, and well owners must be available to return samples to the office from 8-11 a.m. Sept. 18.

Boellstorff, who is in Texas A&M University’s soil and crop sciences department, said floodwater may contain substances from upstream, such as manure, sewage from flooded septic systems or wastewater treatment plants or other contaminants. A septic system near a well also can cause contamination when the soil is flooded.

Test kits will be distributed in several locations, but any homeowner with a private water well in the flood-affected area is eligible. There are a limited number of kits, which will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Only one sample kit will be allowed per household. Samples will be analyzed for coliform bacteria by Virginia Tech. Water quality results will be confidential and will be emailed or mailed to residents’ homes.

Instructions for decontaminating a well are available through the following publications free for download at http://twon.tamu.edu/fact-sheets/:  Decontaminating Flooded Water Wells and Shock Chlorination of Wells.

Drew Gholson, AgriLife Extension program specialist and network coordinator, College Station, said wells should be inspected for physical damage and signs of leakage after a flood.

“If it appears damaged, consult a licensed water well contractor to determine whether repairs are needed,” Gholson said.

He also noted flooding can damage the well pump and electrical systems.

“If the pump and/or electrical system has been underwater and it is not designed to be under water, do not turn on the pump as there is a potential for electrical shock or damage to your well or pump,” he said.

Gholson said once floodwaters have receded and the pump and electrical system have dried, have a qualified electrician, well driller or pump installer check the wiring system and other well components.

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