USA: Flooding poses potential risk for 1 million private wells

Associated Press

By Jim Salter

More than 1 million private wells that supply drinking water in mostly rural parts of the Midwest could face the risk of contamination from floodwater, posing a health concern that could linger long after the flooding subsides.

Major flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and several smaller waterways has inundated states in the middle of America, from the Canadian border south to Kentucky. The National Weather Service has warned that with snowmelt in northern states only beginning, the threat of additional flooding persists well into spring.


Contaminated water can carry bacteria such as E. coli that can cause gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems and neurological disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infants, young children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable.


Owners of private wells use a variety of methods to remove contaminants, including filtration systems, water softeners, distillation systems that boil out the impurities, and disinfectants such as chlorine. But if floodwater gets into a well, those efforts may not be enough.


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