Clean, safe, drinkable water is probably the greatest public health achievement in the history of humanity. But millions of people each year are still seriously sickened by water-related ailments—many of which are easily preventable. Government regulations have helped reduce pollution of the bodies of water that supply our drinking water systems over the years, but various contaminants sometimes still get into drinking water, from natural sources, industrial pollution, or disasters.
This section will describe the laws and governmental agencies that regulate contaminants (including lead) in drinking water, address the different standards that apply to water from a private well instead of from a municipal system, and then explain how you can tell if your water might be contaminated and what you can do about it.
Safe Drinking Water
Safe water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production, or recreational purposes. Municipal (city or county) water sources are regularly tested and well water should be also. Municipalities are also required to provide an annual report informing consumers of the quality of the water the facility is providing. However, water treatment systems are not foolproof. Treating water to kill or remove contaminants like harmful germs or chemicals is still critical to making sure that water is safe to drink. Because of how vital clean drinking water is, it is important to keep it clean and take appropriate actions when it is not.
The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis and Lead Contamination
“Lead [poisoning] is one of the most damning things you can do to a child in their entire life-course trajectory,” states Mona Hanna-Attish, a pediatrician from Flint, Michigan. The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when Governor Rick Snyder ended the city’s five-decade practice of piping treated water for its residents from Detroit in favor of a cheaper alternative: pumping the city’s water from the Flint River.
The Flint River is plagued with contamination, including E. Coli, cancer causing chemicals, and lead. Lead contamination nearly seven times greater than EPA limits in the water supply has contributed to various health and cognitive concerns, including worsened birth outcomes, rashes, hair loss, and emotional agitation. Moreover, lead exposure lowers IQ levels, which can create learning and behavioral issues for children.
Switching the city’s water supply to the contaminated Flint river not only exposed residents to the pollution in the river, the corrosive water also caused lead to enter the water from the city’s pipes. Thousands of people became sick, and it took years of lawsuits and millions of dollars to get the water cleaned up and begin replacing the lead pipes – a process that is still ongoing.
Regulating Safe Drinking Water
Federal and state agencies monitor public water systems to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and other regulations. When results indicate that a contaminant is present at a level that exceeds standards, states and EPA work with public water systems to take steps to prevent or remove the contaminants and notify consumers so that they can make informed choices.
EPA works with its federal, state, and tribal regulatory partners through a comprehensive Safe Drinking Water Act compliance monitoring program to protect human health by ensuring communities obey environmental laws and regulations. To assess compliance, EPA conducts on-site visits using qualified inspectors.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) uses enforcement actions to correct serious environmental problems. The most common enforcement actions taken in response to contaminated water are consent orders and administrative orders that direct a water supplier to clean up pollution or contamination.
Consent orders are decisions and settlements that are reached after parties jointly confer to reach an agreement. This differs from administrative orders that are issued by an administrative agency (here, primarily the EPA) directing an individual, or entity to take corrective action or refrain from an action. The biggest difference is that consent orders are typically agreed to amicably, while administrative orders are unilateral decisions. The order explains the nature of the problem, details the action necessary to correct the problem and may or may not include a settlement amount or fine.
Federal Mandates on Safe Drinking Water
The EPA sets legal limits on over ninety contaminants in drinking water. The legal limit for a contaminant reflects the level that protects human health and that water systems can achieve using the best available technology.
Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 300f to 300j-26)
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the main federal law that protects the nation’s public drinking water supplies. The Act also sets the framework for underground injection of wastes into groundwater, known as the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program.
The SDWA regulates the drinking water supply through the entire process—from source to collection, treatment, storage, and distribution to customers. Under the Act, the EPA must establish health-based standards for drinking water, divided into various categories.
The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations are legally enforceable standards that apply to public water systems.
The National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations are non-enforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that have cosmetic effects (e.g. teeth discoloration), or aesthetic effects (e.g. taste) in drinking water. While the Secondary Drinking Water Regulations function only as recommendations at the federal level, they are enforceable under Georgia law.
Finally, maximum contaminant level goals, levels at which there are no known or expected health risks, are also established; however, these levels are entirely unenforceable and simply serve as goals. Additionally, every five years, the EPA must compile a list of contaminants known or anticipated to occur in public water systems that might require future regulation. The contaminants on the list are then researched and more data collected to determine if regulation is needed. The most recent contaminant candidate list can be found here.
The SDWA also makes funds available to public water systems to help finance improvements. Water systems must apply for the funding, and special consideration is typically given to small water treatment systems such as community systems.
The SDWA requires all public water systems to create an annual report on their system’s water quality, called a Consumer Confidence Report. These reports provide various information on your drinking water, including the source, a summary of the risk of contamination, and a summary on the regulated contaminants found in your water and any potential health effects of contamination. Reports are typically sent to you by your water supplier each year by July 1. If you do not receive one, the EPA provides a tool to find your report.
SDWA Underground Injection Control Program (UIC)
The SDWA’s UIC program establishes minimum requirements for the siting, construction, and operation of systems for underground injection of waste to ensure the protection of underground sources of drinking water.
The UIC program classifies wells based on the potential of the injection endangering the water supply. Lower risk wells do not require a permit as long as they comply with specific rules, but higher risk wells require a permit. The permitting process requires the applicant to submit operational plans and proposed monitoring of the wells.
In Georgia, UIC permits are issued by the EPD. More information on the program is available here.
Before a permit is issued, it must be published for public comment for no less than 30 days. The notice will be posted on the EPD’s website. For information about how to prepare public comments, see Submitting Public Comments.
Lead and Copper Rule (56 FR 26460-26564)
The Lead and Copper Rule was established by the EPA in 1991 to protect public health and reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. The rule established a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal, the level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health, of zero for lead and copper concentrations that exceed 1.3 milligrams per liter (“mg/L”).
The Goal is zero for lead because there is no safe level of exposure.
The Rule also establishes an “action level” of 0.015 mg/L for lead and 1.3 mg/L for copper based on the 90th percentile level of tap water samples. Exceeding the action level for a particular pollutant can trigger other requirements that include water quality parameter monitoring, corrosion control treatment, source water monitoring/treatment, public education, and lead service line replacement.
Lead is naturally occurring but is rarely found in significant quantities in un-contaminated natural sources of water, such as streams, lakes, rivers, or groundwater. Lead from lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures can dissolve into water or enter water as flakes or small particles.
According to the EPD, the potential for human exposure to lead in water is primarily due to the corrosion of lead in domestic plumbing pipes, not from lead in water when it leaves treatment facilities. Potential sources for lead in household plumbing are leaded goose necks connecting to the main water service line, lead service lines, lead particles attached to galvanized pipes, copper pipes with lead solder, and faucets and fixtures inside the home that contain lead. You can find more information about sources of lead in drinking water at the EPA’s resource page.
Lead is extremely toxic, particularly to children, and there is no safe level of lead in children’s blood. There is evidence that even small amounts of blood lead in children causes attention-related behavioral problems, greater incidence of problem behaviors, and decreased academic achievement and IQ. In adults, high blood lead levels can cause increased blood pressure, decreased learning, memory, and attention, damage to reproductive organs, and miscarriage. Once exposed to lead, these health effects cannot be corrected.
For more information on lead pollution in general, see Lead Contamination. If you are concerned that your water may be contaminated with lead, specific actions you can take will be discussed at the bottom of this page.
National Primary Drinking Water Regulations
The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations are legally enforceable primary standards and treatment techniques set by EPA that apply to public water systems. These regulations protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water.
Currently, the EPA has regulations for microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, organic and inorganic chemicals, and radionuclides. The EPA provides a table of various contaminants, common sources, and potential health effects.
Georgia Mandates on Safe Drinking Water
Georgia Safe Drinking Water Act (O.G.C.A §§ 12-5-170 to -193)
The federal Safe Drinking Water Act permits states to implement the Act as long as the minimum federal standards are met. The Georgia Safe Drinking Water Act gives Georgia’s EPD the authority to adopt rules and regulations affecting the source, collection, treatment, storage, and distribution of the state’s drinking water and thus to administer the federal requirements. These rules and regulations are in Georgia Rule 391-3-5.
Georgia also has requirements for lead and copper levels in drinking water, which can trigger water treatment or repair programs based on lead and copper levels measured in samples collected at consumers’ taps.
Sampling sites are chosen based on the size of the population that the system serves and are narrowed down based on plumbing and inspection records. The primary sampling sites selected for a community water system’s sampling pool focus on single family structures that contain copper pipes installed after 1982 or are served by a lead service line.
The maximum contaminant level goals for lead and copper are 0 and 1.3 mg/L, mirroring the standards set at the federal level. The lead action level is exceeded if the concentration of lead in more than 10 percent of tap water samples collected during any monitoring period is greater than 0.015 mg/L. The copper action level is exceeded if the concentration of copper in more than 10 percent of tap water samples collected during any monitoring period is greater than 1.3 mg/L. If your home’s water is contaminated, specific actions you can take will be addressed below.
Well Water Standards
Regulation of wells and groundwater happens at the state level; the EPA does not regulate private wells, nor does it provide recommended criteria or standards for individual wells.
State and Local Mandates
Water Well Standards Act (O.C.G.A. §§ 12-5-120 to -138)
The purpose of the Water Well Standards Act is to protect the state’s groundwater supply from contamination by establishing standards for siting, constructing, operating, maintaining, and abandoning wells and boreholes.
Under the Act, individual and non-public wells must be located as far as possible from known or potential sources of pollutants; the Act also establishes distance requirements from sewers and septic systems. Wells must also be accessible for cleaning, treatment, repairs, testing, and inspection.
The well should be located as far from known or potential sources of pollutants as possible, and it must not be located in areas subject to flooding unless the well wall (the ‘casing’) extends at least two feet above the level of the highest known flood of record.
The following distances for well placement are required under the Water Well Standards Act:
At least ten (10) feet from a sewer line
At least 50 feet from a septic tank
At least 100 feet from a septic tank absorption field
At least 150 feet from a cesspool or seepage pit
At least 100 feet from an animal or fowl enclosure
Wells must be drilled and installed by a licensed water well contractor, who must have passed an examination and be licensed. The Act also requires that all drilling be performed under the direction of a geologist or engineer, and the water well contractor must notify the county health department of the intent to drill a water well. EPD provides a list of licensed water well contractors.
The Act further seeks to protect groundwater against pollution by requiring that unused or abandoned wells or boreholes be filled, sealed, and plugged within 30 days of disuse. Generally, “temporarily abandoned” means those wells that have been unused for a minimum of 365 days, and “permanently abandoned” means those wells that have been unused for three years. The Act also prohibits the disposal of wastes or pollutants into wells or boreholes.
Violators of the Act may be subject to criminal and civil penalties. Anyone who falsely holds himself out as a water well contractor may be found guilty of misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000 per day of violation. Additionally, violators of any requirement of the Act may be fined up to $5,000 per day.
What If You Suspect Your Municipal Drinking Water May Be Contaminated?
If you suspect that your drinking water is contaminated, there are some immediate actions that you can take to protect your health and safety.
This section maps out key identifiers of contaminated municipal or well drinking water and various steps you can take to decontaminate your water. This section also provides various reporting mechanisms to bring official attention and action to drinking water contamination at the federal, state, and local level.
Identifying Contaminated Drinking Water
While contaminants are often microscopic, making them difficult to see, there are a few ways to screen for contaminated drinking water. Water that is safe to drink should ideally be clear with no odor or funny taste.
Cloudy water is not necessarily dangerous to your health. For example, your drinking water being cloudy, or milky, can be caused by air bubbles due to high pressure pipes. However, in general, your drinking water should be clear. If your drinking water appears cloudy for more than 12 hours, it could signal the presence of unsafe pathogens or chemicals.
Slimy feeling water
If your hands feel slimy after washing them with soap and water, or you have to use more laundry detergent to clean your clothes, this could be a sign of “hard water”. Hard water is water high in dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. By itself, hard water is not harmful (in fact, your body needs some calcium and magnesium), but it can sometimes be an indicator of more dangerous dissolved minerals like aluminum, manganese, and lead.
Yellow, orange, or brown water
Yellow, orange, or brown water could signal the presence of a buildup of iron from rusted pipes, dirt, manganese, copper, or lead. Discoloration does not always mean that the water is unsafe. If your water comes from a public system, see if the tint only appears while running cold water, which could mean that your utility is conducting pipe repairs that have disturbed rust or dirt, or flushing out the water system with higher water pressure. Just as water can contain sediment or rust from city pipes, it can also do so from your home’s pipes, especially if your home is older and the pipes have rusted over time.
Water tinged with green or blue
Blue or green water can be a result of dissolved minerals, algae, or elevated copper levels caused by corroded pipes or plumbing fixtures. High copper levels may also cause blue-green staining on your faucets or sinks. Copper is actually healthy for your body in small doses, but high doses can cause gastrointestinal distress and harm your liver and kidneys.
Water that tastes metallic or sweet
Dissolved minerals and chemicals can contribute taste as well as color to your water. Rusted or corroded pipes can release metals like iron, manganese, and copper, causing water to taste metallic. Other minerals like calcium or lead can make water taste sweet.
Water that smells like bleach, rotten eggs, grass, gasoline, or fish
A bad smell from your water can have several different meanings. Chlorine is commonly used by water systems to kill germs, but a strong chlorine odor (like pool water or bleach) could mean something is wrong with the water treatment system, or that the chlorine is reacting with your home’s pipes. A rotten egg, grass, or fishy smell can mean that bacteria are present in the water, but the most serious smell is of gasoline or other strong chemicals, which could indicate that industrial contamination or leaking fuel has infiltrated your water system.
The EPA has published an extensive list of water pollutants. If you are concerned about a specific pollutant, contact the EPA or check the EPA’s online resources.
Drinking Water Tests and Compliance
Georgia Drinking Water Test Results and Sample Schedules for Lead and Copper
If you want to see Drinking Water Test Results and/or Monitoring Requirements for your Public Water System, the Drinking Water Test Results and Sample Schedules can be viewed online at the EPD’s Drinking Water Watch.
Georgia’s annual public water system compliance summary, showing what violations of Georgia’s drinking water standards were detected in the previous year, can be found here.
The University of Georgia also provides water analyses for a fee (starting at $20 for a basic test). You can request basic to more extensive water tests based on your concerns. The University has various extension offices for sample submissions and consultation. You can find your local county office and information how to collect and send water samples here.
Once you receive your results, UGA offers an interactive tool to help you understand the report.
Responding to Contaminated Drinking Water
In an emergency, water contaminated with germs can often be made safe to drink by boiling, adding disinfectants, or filtering. However, water contaminated with fuel, toxic chemicals, or radioactive material cannot be made safe by boiling or disinfection.
Use bottled water or a different source of water if you know or suspect that your water might be contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals. If you discover your water is contaminated, one option is to use National Science Foundation-certified water filters that are designed to eliminate specific contaminants.
If you do choose to decontaminate your water, here are some guidelines on best practices from the CDC:
Boiling your water is the most effective method for killing germs.
If the water is cloudy:
Filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter or allow it to settle.
Draw off the clear water.
Bring the clear water to a rolling boil for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes).
If you don’t have safe bottled water and if boiling is not possible, you can make water safer to drink by using a chemical disinfectant such as unscented household chlorine bleach.
Bleach can kill germs, but like boiling, it will not remove chemical or radioactive contamination. If your water is cloudy or dirty, start by filtering it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter, or allow it to settle and then draw off the clear water.
You can make water safer to use with bleach having a 5%-9% concentration of hypochlorite (most common in the US, but check the label on your bleach before using it). If the water is cloudy, murky, colored, or very cold, add double the amount of bleach listed below.
1 Quart/Liter Water
1 Gallon Water
5 Gallons Water
If you have a dropper: Add 2 drops of bleach
If you have a dropper: Add 8 drops of bleach
If you have a dropper: Add 40 drops of bleach
If you have something that measures milliliters (mL): Add 0.1 mL of bleach
If you have something that measures milliliters (mL): Add ½ mL of bleach
If you have something that measures milliliters (mL): Add 2½ mL of bleach
If you have a measuring spoon: Amount too small to measure
If you have a measuring spoon: Add a little less than 1/8 teaspoon
If you have a measuring spoon: Add ½ teaspoon of bleach
Once you have added the bleach, stir the water well and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before you drink it.
Instead of boiling or chemically treating your water, a water filter passes the water through a porous material to screen out contaminants. Many portable water filters can remove disease-causing parasites from drinking water. The CDC also provides a guide to filters for tap water in your home.
If you are choosing a portable water filter:
Try to pick one that has a filter pore size small enough to remove parasites (such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium).
Carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
To be extra safe, after filtering, add a chemical disinfectant to the filtered water to kill any viruses and remaining bacteria. Common water treatment chemicals are iodine, chlorine, or chlorine dioxide.
Lead and Copper Contamination
The EPA has provided tips on how to reduce exposure to lead in your drinking water. Lead pipes are more likely to be found in older cities and in any homes built before 1986. If you have a confirmed lead pipe or lead in your drinking water, you may want to consider removing all lead sources. Check with your water supplier or town about the best way to replace your lead service line (the pipe that connects your house to the water main) or other lead sources.
The EPA has an interactive guide to help you identify lead pipes and a list of steps you can take to reduce exposure. The list of steps from EPA’s guide are below, and you can also refer to the EPA’s interactive guide.
Flush your water before drinking. If your tap water hasn’t been used for several hours, it is important to remove lead by running the water through the pipes before drinking or cooking. This is called flushing. Run the water from a high volume tap before drinking to flush your pipes, bringing fresh water into your home. The amount of time to run the water will depend on whether your home has a lead service line or not, and the length of the lead service line (it could be many minutes). Contact your water utility for recommendations about flushing times in your community. Flushing water from a high-volume tap may include taking a shower, doing laundry, or doing a load of dishes. After flushing, this water should be suitable for drinking, cooking, preparation of baby formula, for pets or other consumption. Consider collecting multiple containers of water after flushing to use later for consumption.
Use your filter properly. If you use a filter, choose a filter certified to remove lead. Read the directions to properly install, use and replace the filter’s cartridge. Using the cartridge after it has expired can make it less effective at removing lead. Do not run hot water through the filter.
Use only cold water for cooking and drinking. Do not cook with, or drink water from the hot water tap. Hot water can dissolve lead more quickly than cold water. If you need hot water, draw water from the cold tap then heat it.
Clean your faucet’s screen (aerator). In addition to running your water before using it for cooking or drinking it is important to regularly clean your faucet’s screen. If your faucet was manufactured before 1986, it’s possible it has a higher lead content.
Documenting Contaminated Drinking Water
If you suspect that your water has been contaminated, it is imperative that you document instances of pollution. For general information about documenting pollution, see Protecting Your Community: Getting Started.
If you are concerned with contaminated drinking water, you should have your drinking water tested by your water supplier (which may provide this service for free) or a certified laboratory. Your local health department can also assist in explaining any tests that you need for various contaminants.
Most testing laboratories or services that have you send in a water sample will send you their own sample containers. Use the containers provided and carefully follow the laboratory’s instructions. For example, the lab may require that water run from an indoor or outdoor tap for several minutes before filling the sample containers.
Not all laboratories will ask you to collect the sample yourself. Some will send a trained technician to collect the sample. This type of service could cost more, but you will know the sample was collected properly and delivered to the lab. Some nonprofits supply home lead test kits, including Healthy Babies Bright Futures.
If you are concerned about your municipal water, take a look at your water utility’s annual water quality report (also called a Consumer Confidence Report), which is usually mailed once a year with your water bill and should also be available online.
The report summarizes which contaminants have been found in your drinking water and whether any of them have reached potentially dangerous levels. If contaminants have reached dangerous levels, the water supplier is required to notify customers.
The EPD has a watershed protection branch that ensures that Georgia’s public water systems are operating properly and supplying safe drinking water. The EPD encourages people to contact their district office, by phone or email, to submit complaints if they suspect that their drinking water is contaminated.
Georgia’s Department of Public Health is also available in the event that your drinking water is contaminated. You can find your local county environmental health office information here or check Appendix B for contact information.
Your county or local watershed management office or water utility company may also have information on how to report potential contamination or concerns on their website. If they do not, you can always call them.
Most of Georgia’s municipal drinking water comes from rivers, and Georgia has over 30 active river groups that are constantly working to make sure the water your family drinks is clean. You should call your local river group if you spot a problem that you think could affect the health of a local waterway. Find your local riverkeeper organization here or check Appendix B.
What If You Suspect Your Well Water May Be Contaminated?
Prevent Water Well Pollution
If your home’s water comes from a well, you should be careful to keep household contaminants away from the well and out of septic systems.
The EPA has a list of other steps you can take, including:
Slope the area around the well to drain surface runoff away from the well.
Install a well cap or sanitary seal to prevent unauthorized use of, or entry into, the well.
Avoid mixing or using pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, degreasers, fuels, and other pollutants near the well.
Do not dispose of wastes in dry wells or in abandoned wells.
Periodically inspect exposed parts of the well for problems such as:
Cracked, corroded or damaged well casing
Broken or missing well cap
Settling and cracking of surface seals
Identifying Reasons to Test Your Well Water
The chart below, created by the EPA, lists common conditions or nearby activities that well owners should be aware of and the substance(s) that you should consider testing for to ensure your well is safe. Not all of the substances listed pose an immediate or long-term health problem, some impact quality of life only such as appearance, taste, and odor.
Conditions or Nearby Activities:
Recurring gastro-intestinal illness
Household plumbing or service lines that contain lead
pH, lead, copper
Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich
Corrosion of pipes, plumbing
Corrosion, pH, lead
Nearby areas of intensive agriculture
Nitrate, nitrite, pesticides, coliform bacteria
Coal or other mining operations nearby
Metals, pH, corrosion
Gas drilling operations nearby
Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium
Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station or dry-cleaning operation nearby
Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals
Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks
Volatile organic compounds
Objectionable taste or smell
Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals
Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry
Iron, copper, manganese
Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby
Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium
Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather
Rapid wear of water treatment equipment
Water softener needed to treat hardness
Water appears cloudy, frothy or colored
Coal Ash Contamination
Coal ash is a collection of residual pollutants, including mercury, arsenic, and cadmium, left behind from coal-fired power plants. Power plants often dispose of coal ash in unlined ponds or lagoons, which often leak into groundwater supplies. This leaves groundwater supplies at risk for toxic contaminants above levels that are safe for drinking water.
There are currently no federal or state standards that establish maximum contaminant levels or require power plant companies to test private drinking water wells. Current requirements only compel power plant owners to test groundwater at the power plant site. But contaminants move through groundwater, leaving contamination undetected in private wells, because coal ash pollutants often have no obvious taste or color.
Currently, the EPA has regulations and requirements for the disposal of coal ash from coal fired power plants into landfills and surface impoundments. The Coal Combustion Residuals Rule establishes standards for protecting groundwater including monitoring wells and specifying procedures for sampling these wells to detect the presence of hazardous substances at the site of power plants. If hazardous waste is found above groundwater standards, the owner or operator of the site must take corrective action to clean up the contamination. The Rule also establishes five location restrictions on where landfills and coal ash ponds can be sited.
Protecting Your Well Water After a Natural Disaster or Emergency
The EPA suggests specific steps to protect your water after flooding, earthquakes, landslides, and other natural disasters.
Flood response steps recommended by the EPA include:
Stay away from the well pump while flooded to avoid electric shock.
Do not drink or wash from the flooded well to avoid becoming sick.
Get assistance from a well or pump contractor to clean and disinfect your well before turning on the pump.
After the pump is turned back on, pump the well until the water runs clear to rid the well of flood water.
If the water does not run clear, get advice from the county or state health department or extension service.
Well Water Testing
The Georgia Department of Public Health and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension provides private well water testing through the Private Well Chemical Test (test W-33C). This test will examine private wells for several contaminants including arsenic, lead, fluoride, nitrate, and nitrite. This program also tests wells for bacteria with test W-35, and the Department of Public Health recommends testing all wells for bacteria at least once per year, and testing wells for toxic chemicals every three years.
You can access more information on the program, including how to have your private well tested at a local extension office, at the program’s Soil and Water Testing page.
Once you receive your results, the Cooperative Extensions offers an interactive tool to help you understand your report.
Well Water Treatment
If a test of your well shows that it contains a contaminant, contact your local public health department (see below) for specific steps to follow, which could include having your well re-tested to confirm the contaminant’s presence and concentrations, and for advice on how to fix the problem.
If you have a contracted a water related illness, you can contact your city or county environmental health office. Georgia Department of Health provides a contact list for County Environmental Health Offices or check Appendix B. These complaints are reviewed for investigations and to identify potential clusters of illness.
After contacting your local environmental health office, you can also report any cluster of suspicious illnesses to the Georgia Department of Public Health Office of Epidemiology’s Disease Reporting.