Above normal precipitation and warm temperatures in late February led to extensive flooding in northern Utah this winter. The Bear River Health Department has announced free bacteria testing for residents whose primary source of water is wells, and have experienced flooding in Cache, Box Elder and Rich Counties.
Flood waters are often contaminated with bacteria from garbage, animal waste and sewer or septic overflows. Richard Worley, deputy director of the Environmental Health Division at the Bear River Health Department, says the primary source of well contamination is due to flood waters infiltrating well casings.
“Sometimes the well casing, you’ll see a well that extends up above the ground, and if there is a significant amount of ponding," Worley said. "There is a vent in the casing and so there is a direct conduit where the water can go right into the casing and down into the well. Sometimes that water can seep down into the aquifer and cause issues with your well.”
The health department reports that 24 people have brought in water for testing, and 8 of those samples tested positive for Coliform bacteria. Wells that test positive can be treated with chlorine to eliminate disease causing agents. If you have not been directly impacted by flooding, but are concerned about your well, Worley encourages citizens to bring samples to any of the health department offices in Tremonton, Brigham City and Logan.
The communities of Garland and Tremonton in Box Elder County were hit hardest by floods in the last few weeks. Rich Woodruff of the Utah Region American Red Cross reports that 100 people have requested help from the Red Cross, and 350 clean up kits have been distributed. The Red Cross provides food, shelter and other support services including access to mental health professionals for those affected by flooding.
“We like to say be prepared in terms of, have a kit, make a plan, be informed," Woodruff said. " A 72-hour kit, an evacuation plan, and be informed of the hazards of flooding, be educated, and just keep your family safe.”
Woodruff recommends the Red Cross Flood App that provides information to help prepare for floods, inform residents of road closures and other local information during the event, and recommends resources to help with flood recovery. If you would like to learn more about how to collect and submit your well water for testing contact the Bear River Health Department or visit their website.