Heavy rains such as those experienced over the past several days can cause problems with septic systems and private wells. The Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County urges residents to take safety precautions when dealing with these issues:

Septic tank back-up:
- Use household water as little as possible to try to prevent sewage from backing up into the house.

- If you do have a sewage backup, stay out of the affected areas and keep children and pets away.

- To clean up small spills, wear protective clothing such as rubber boots and waterproof gloves.

- Clean walls and all hard surfaces with soap and water.

- Disinfect with a solution of ¼ cup bleach in 1 gallon of water (do not mix cleansers with ammonia and bleach as this will create toxic fumes).

- Once clean-up is complete, dry out affected items to prevent the growth of mold.

- Wash all linens and clothing in hot water or have them dry cleaned.

- Discard things that cannot be washed or dry cleaned, such as mattresses, carpeting, wall coverings, and upholstered furniture.

- If a spill occurs outside your home, keep children and pets away from the affected area and contact a registered septic tank contractor for clean-up.

Follow proper hygiene precautions, as well:

- Keep hands and fingers away from your nose, mouth, eyes and ears.

- Wash hands with soap and water immediately after clean-up efforts, as well as before eating or drinking.

- Keep fingernails short and clean. Use a stiff brush to remove dirt and foreign materials.

- Do not store clean work clothes with used work clothes.

- Shower as soon as possible after cleaning up sewage or sewage contaminated flood water.

- Private wells that provide drinking water can be affected by flood waters, as well. The health department advises private well owners to take precautions against disease-causing organisms that may make water unsafe to drink. Any of the follow may be used:

- Boil all water used for drinking, brushing teeth, washing or cooking food, and washing dishes. A rolling boil of one minute is sufficient to kill disease causing organisms.

- Disinfect water by adding 8 drops of plain, unscented household bleach to one gallon of water and allow to stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the process.

- Use bottled water, especially for mixing baby formula.

After flooding subsides, disinfect your well using the procedures provided by the Florida Department of Health at: http://www.floridahealth.gov/healthy-environments/private-well-testing/_documents/Flooded_Well_Broc.pdf.

Have your water tested by a laboratory certified by the state to perform a drinking water analysis for coliform bacteria.


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