According to Quebec's ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, private well owners must take special precautions when there is a flood because such events can present serious risks to the quality of underground water, which can be contaminated not only by river water but also by nearby septic systems. In order to avoid the risk of illness due to the consumption of contaminated water, the ministère recommends that those owners take the following steps.
Water from any well in a flooded area should be treated as unsafe to consume, and anyone who is affected should get their drinking water from another source (for instance from a neighbour who was not affected, a water distribution network or bottled water), or boil for one minute any water they intend to consume as drinking water or to prepare uncooked food.
Once the flood waters have finally receded, property owners should check that their well equipment is intact, particularly the wiring, to make sure that the water is potable.
Then, as specified in the procédure du ministère de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, owners should wait a minimum of ten days before disinfecting their wells.
Once the disinfection procedure is completed, owners should have their well water tested.
After the disinfection, the testing should indicate that the water is entirely free of E. coli, enterococci and total coliforms.
The municipal lab offers free total coliform and E. coli testing to the owners of private wells affected by the flood.
A maximum of two samples will be tested for free per household. Owners will have to pay for any additional testing. Proof of residence is required.
Water from wells in the following affected areas qualify for free testing:
The lab will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Thursday, from 8 a.m. to noon on Friday, and exceptionally from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday June 8 and 15.
The lab will also test the water of other residences in Gatineau and elsewhere for $40.
If there are any such bacteria, the water must continue to be boiled. The well will have to be reinspected, and the disinfection repeated.
The results of both recommended series of analyses must indicate that the water is safe to consume.
Source: ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques du Québec.