ECOLOGY NEWS: Drinking Water Wells in Fire Areas Should be Protected

Lessons from Carlton Complex fire prompts urgency for inspections

UNION GAP, Wash. – Homeowners affected by wildfire are encouraged to inspect their drinking-water wells now to protect groundwater and their investment.

Forest fires can melt aluminum and plastic well caps, leaving the well exposed to environmental hazards. Uncapped wells can fill with rocks, mud and debris rendering the well unusable.

The Washington Department of Ecology says several lessons were learned about the impacts of forest fires on wells after the devastating Carlton Complex Fire of 2014.

“The intense rain storms that followed the Carlton Complex Fire caused mudslides in burned areas, destroying a number of wells that could not be repaired or properly decommissioned,” explained Avery Richardson, Ecology’s well coordinator in the Central Regional Office.

Wells with tight fitting caps mostly were undamaged by the debris flows, as the materials largely passed over them.

How to protect your well 

·       Inspect your well as soon as you can safely return to your property.

·       Check to see if your well cap is still in place.  Make sure it is tightly bolted and the vent hole or conduit hole is plugged. This helps prevent insects, ash or debris from entering your well.

·       If your well cap was destroyed, seek advice from a local well driller or pump installer to purchase another one. Installation is generally simple.

·       While these professionals are busy at this time, it is imperative that you get your well capped as soon as possible.

Other information is available on the state Department of Health’s drinking-water and wildfire webpage.

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