Water and Iraq
Posted: April 14, 2011
The phone call came at lunch time, “My grandchildren are getting diarrhea at our house, my wife thinks it might be our well, where can we get our water tested quickly, I’m about to deploy to Iraq.” We covered the possibilities for laboratories and then I mentioned that if the test came back positive for coliform bacteria the well should be shocked. A common way these bacteria get introduced into a well is when pump repair work is done. For that reason the well should always be shock chlorinated after pump work. A short silence occurred and then, “We just had our pump replaced.”
In that case the thing to do is shock the well first and test later to see if the water is coliform free. So we discussed the procedure for shocking a well. First determine the amount of water in the well. For a well 200 feet deep and 50 feet to water there are 150 feet of water in the well. Use 1.5 quarts of household bleach for each 100 feet of water. The bleach required is 2.25 quarts. Better to use a little extra than too little so use 2.5 quarts. Put the bleach in a clean 5 gallon bucket and finish filling with water (straight bleach tends to quickly oxidize the iron in the well casing). Pour this mixture into the well. Bring a garden hose to the well and run water back into the well. Do this until the bleach is mixed throughout the water in the well. Your nose will tell you when this occurs. Put the hose away and replace the well cap. Inside the house by-pass the water softener if you have one, then draw water from each cold water tap until you smell chlorine. Next draw water from each hot water tap. The first one will take a lot of water because the water heater is full of un-chlorinated water and several gallons of chlorinated water have to be added for the mixture to have chlorine you can smell. You could wash dishes using hot water to avoid wasting the hot water. Now that chlorine water is all through the plumbing system, avoid using water for 6 hours or more. It is good to do this in the evening so the chorine can disinfect all night long.
In the morning you should reconnect the water softener. It too needs to be disinfected and will be through the normal use of the water over the next couple days. Water can be used normally with two exceptions. Since the chlorine level is about 100 ppm it should only be used for laundry intended to be bleached. The high concentration is equivalent to the bleach added to a load of laundry. Because the chlorine level is so high nobody is going to want to shower with it either. By the end of the day the chlorine level will be much reduced but will continue to be noticeable for about a week.
You have just read how one soldier took care of his family just before leaving for Iraq at Christmas time. The final instruction concerning the water is to have a coliform test done in two weeks or so (when there is no more odor of chlorine) to determine if the water is potable. Farewell soldier.
Tom McCarty is the Penn State Cooperative Extension Water Quality Educator serving Adams County. Penn State Extension in Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Rd., Suite 204, Gettysburg PA 17325, phone 334-6271 or (888) 472-0261, e-mail: AdamsExt@psu.edu. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce.