Many people a lulled into thinking if they have a stash of bottled water, barrels of rain water, a cistern, or other way to store large amounts of water they are in the clear. That is only the beginning.
Imagine, thousands of gallons of water sitting there, but you can’t use it because it was contaminated during the disaster. What good did it do to store all that water if you can’t use it after the disaster? Plenty of good, if you are prepared.
When you return to your location after the disaster, first things first. Check on any livestock that might not have been evacuated and render first aid to them. Check out the safety of the home and tend to the immediate needs of the family only using food and water that came back with you. After that, it’s time to set about the business of checking on the food and water supplies.
The food is either safe or it is not. There’s not much you can do to fix it if it is contaminated. The water on the other hand, can be cleaned and be useful.
How to know if it is contaminated? Use your common sense and your senses. If the disaster and your water supply obviously crossed paths, the first thing is to test the water. Such cases as natural disasters that disturb land and water like earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. All of these can contaminate wells with petrochemicals and other things. Obviously a nuclear disaster would demand that you not return to your home.
The EPA provides information about water contamination and what to do about it. The EPA chart about which tests order is helpful. Considering that state agencies will be flooded with work after a disaster, it might be a good idea to have test kits on hand. It helps to know which tests to use.
Consider your location. For instance, in our location there is the risk of contamination from all manner of refineries after a hurricane. For this reason, we would know that our wells would be likely contaminated with industrial chemicals, animal decay, sewer system failure, and salt water. We would not use any stored water until it can be purified and retested. Over time the wells would clean themselves, but certainly not fast enough to use right after a disaster. Frequent testing of the wells will let you know when they are safe to use again. In the meantime it will be necessary to purify the water according to EPA instructions for the contaminants found.
It is important to note that wells may test negative for one contaminant this week, but next week it might test positive because of the underground flow of water or rain washing contaminants into the well. Until all wells in the area test clean, don’t assume your well is always safe. For that information contact the appropriate authorities in your region.
The EPA and water quality associations are dedicated to pure water for everyone one. Use the resources they offer.