Mariposa County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), as well as Mariposa County Environmental Health, have some advice for county residents who may have had their well water disrupted by the Oak Fire.
HHSA public information officer Lizz Darcy recommended doing a visual inspection of the well upon returning home after a fire.
When reviewing the wells, check for damage to:
• Electrical wires and connectors which supply power to your well.
• Above ground PVC pipes used with the well to bring water to the home.
• Well houses and equipment such as chlorinators, filters and electronic controls.
• Pressure tanks which could have been caused by exposure to excessive heat.
• Storage tanks, vents and overflow pipes.
If any damage is found, contact a licensed contractor or trade worker to repair the damage.
People may notice their water tastes or smells earthy, smokey or burnt.
Darcy said people who notice an off taste or smell should call environmental health or a local well company.
When testing drinking water for the presence of bacteria, it is necessary to collect a sample and deliver it to a certified environmental testing laboratory.
Locations can be found here: mariposacounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/42619/Water-Testing-Labs-07252022-V-20?bidId=.
Laboratories generally charge between $20-$50 for a bacteria test. When collecting a sample, follow these procedures:
1. Write your name, address and phone number on the laboratory form and sample container, using a water-resistant pen. On the form, indicate that you would like the sample analyzed with a drinking water method for total coliform bacteria.
2. Collect the sample from a clean inside faucet.
3. If there is an aerator or screen on the faucet, remove it before you collect the sample and ensure the faucet and sink are clean.
4. Turn the faucet on with a full steady flow of water and let it run for approximately one minute.
5. After the faucet has run for a minute, reduce the flow to a small steady stream. Do not turn off the water.
6. Place the sample container from the laboratory under the stream of water. Be careful not to touch the inside or edges.
7. Fill the sample container to the fill line, immediately seal it and turn off the faucet.
8. Place the sample in the lab container and be sure to follow any sample chilling procedures provided by the laboratory.
While waiting for test results, water can be used for showering and flushing toilets. Be careful not to swallow any water when showering.
Do not use the water for cooking or drinking purposes unless it has been boiled or disinfected. This includes not washing dishes or other cooking utensils in it.
This water is safe for animals.
Here are ways to disinfect the water while waiting for test results:
1. Pour one and a half cups of bleach into the well. Wait 30 minutes.
2. Open the taps at the furthest ends of the system and dead ends until the chlorine is smelled. After, close the taps.
3. Let the well stand 24 hours without pumping.
4. Open the taps and flush the lines until a chlorine odor is no longer detectable.
It is important to check to see if wells and piping systems maintained positive pressure during the fire. This can be done by turning on a faucet in the household to see if any water comes out.
There should not be any air released from the faucet. The flow of water should be steady and uninterrupted.
If there is air escaping from the faucet with water intermittently spurting out when it is turned on, that is an indication the well and household plumbing had a loss of pressure.
People can get answers to any questions by contacting environmental health at (209) 966-2220.
Also, visit mariposacountyrecovers.org for more information.