Testing water after a disaster doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it shouldn’t be, as it’s one of the primary ways to keep yourself and your family safe after a major natural disaster because drinking contaminated or otherwise compromised water can be deadly.
Here are three easy ways to go about testing water after a disaster:
Purchase a Water Testing Kit
Water testing kits are inexpensive and can be found at most major retailers. A reliable kit will run between $25 and $30, although it’s a good idea to have more than one in your home, just in case. Water testing kits give readings for bacteria, lead, pesticides (Atropine/magazine), nitrate, nitrite, iron, total chlorine, pH, total hardness, total alkalinity, and copper.
These kits can be used in conjunction with information released by local environmental authorities.
Supplies to purchase: water testing kit
Boiling and Bleaching
If you don’t have a water testing kit available for testing water after a disaster, your next best option is old fashion boiling and bleaching. Any suspicious water should be poured into a container so that all particles can settle to the bottom. The water should then be strained with coffee filters or cloth before boiling.
You can also use unscented, plain bleach – do not use scented ones or any with added cleaners). Add in 1/8 teaspoon of bleach for each gallon of water. Mix it in and leave it for about 30 minutes. The water should still smell faintly of bleach. If it does not, add another 1/8 teaspoon to repeat the process. If you still cannot smell the “chlorine” smell, toss the water.
If you have a private well, you are responsible for testing your water after a disaster because the Safe Drinking Water Act only applies to “public” water – i.e. city water, or that provided by neighborhoods.
While your county health department often will recommend contractors who can test the portability of your water, you can also purchase vials for water collection and send samples off to the lab yourself. Call EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1(800) 426- 4791 for a list of certified labs. You can find more information about water in private wells here.