Private water well screening set for Oct. 15 in Orange

Water wells in flooded areas should be screened for contaminants. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service)

The Texas Well Owner Network, or TWON, is hosting a water well screening Oct. 15 in Orange to give area residents whose water wells flooded from the recent rains the opportunity to have their well water screened.

The screening will be from 8:30-10 a.m. at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office for Orange County, 11475A Farm-to-Market Road 1442.

Diane Boellstorff, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension water resource specialist, College Station, said private water well owners whose wells flooded should assume their well water is contaminated until the water has been screened.

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

Boellstorff, who is in Texas A&M’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, 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.

A meeting explaining the screening results will be at 5 p.m. Oct. 16 at the same location.

Joel Pigg, AgriLife Extension program specialist and TWON coordinator, College Station, said area residents wanting to have their well water screened should pick up a sample bag, bottle and instructions from the AgriLife Extension office in Orange County.

“It is very important that only sampling bags and bottles from the AgriLife Extension office be used and all instructions for proper sampling are followed to ensure accurate results,” Pigg said.

The samples must be turned in by 10 a.m. on the day of the screening, and there will be no charge for the analyses.

Well water testing sample bottles. (Texas Water Resources Institute photo by Kathy Wythe)

Samples will be screened for contaminants including total coliform bacteria, E. coli, nitrate-nitrogen and salinity.

Pigg said research shows the presence of E. coli bacteria in water indicates that waste from humans or warm-blooded animals may have contaminated the water. Water contaminated with E. coli is more likely to also have pathogens present that can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea or other symptoms.

“Water with nitrate-nitrogen at levels of 10 parts per million is considered unsafe for human consumption,” Pigg said. “These nitrate levels above 10 parts per million can disrupt the ability of blood to carry oxygen throughout the body, resulting in a condition called methemoglobinemia. Infants less than 6 months of age and young livestock are most susceptible.”

Salinity, as measured by total dissolved solids, will also be determined for each sample, he said. Water with high levels may leave deposits and have a salty taste, and using water with high levels for irrigation may damage soil or plants.

Pigg said it is extremely important for those submitting samples to be at the Oct. 16 meeting to receive results, learn corrective measures for identified problems and improve their understanding of private well management.

“After a flood,wells should be inspected for physical damage and signs of leakage,” he said. “If it appears damaged, consult a licensed water well contractor to determine whether repairs are needed.”

Flooding can also damage the well pump and electrical systems.

“If the pump and/or electrical system has been underwater and it is not designed to be underwater, do not turn on the pump as there is a potential for electrical shock or damage to your well or pump,” Pigg said. “Once floodwaters have receded and pump and electrical system have dried, have a qualified electrician, well driller or pump installer check the wiring system and other well components.”

For more information, contact the AgriLife Extension office in Orange County at 409-882-7010.

Go to the TWON website for more about the programs offered through the network or to find additional publications and resources.

Funding for the Texas Well Owner Network is through a Clean Water Act nonpoint source grant provided by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The project is managed by the Texas Water Resources Institute, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University. -30-

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