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Waterways, Flooded Private Wells and Basements Require Precautions

Thomas L. Schlenker, MD, MPH, Director

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jeff Golden
(608) 243-0302

Madison, WI - June 9, 2008. Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) is asking all Dane County residents who have been affected by recent floodwaters, as well as those who recreate in lakes to be aware of the following public health concerns:

Due to surcharging of the Madison Metropolitan Sewage District public waste water system (sanitary sewer system), wastewater was discharged to the Yahara River in the Cherokee Park area, Starkweather Creek in the vicinity of US Highway 51 and also at Milwaukee Street and to Lake Monona at Waunona Way. Thus, both Lakes Mendota and Monona are considered to be unsafe for swimming and recreating until further notice and all beaches are closed. PHMDC will be monitoring lake water in the beach areas of those lakes to determine when it is safe to enter the water. It is unknown how long the lakes will be unsafe for recreating but additional rains in the near future will likely cause additional problems. Although we do not have any other specific reports of discharges to other lakes, heavy rains always carry many contaminates into lakes so swimming is not advised on other lakes at the present time.

Flooded basements provide an ideal environment for mold and bacteria. When things get wet for more than two days they usually get moldy. Mold may cause significant health problems for building inhabitants. It is very important to take action to prevent mold from growing. Following is a brief overview of steps you should take:

• The EPA recommends that you wear protective clothing to protect yourself from becoming ill when cleaning. Protective clothing includes the following: An N-95 respirator mask (more protective than the dust mask), goggles, rubber gloves, long pants, long sleeved shirt, and boots or work shoes.
• Dry the flooded space within 48-hours. This greatly improves your chances of avoiding a mold problem in the future.
• Remove and throw out porous materials that have been soaked by floodwaters, such as carpets, drywall, insulation, and manufactured wood products.
o Sometimes these materials can be salvaged if they are cleaned and dried completely within 48 hours.
• If drywall has been damaged, cut and remove the drywall up to at least one foot above the water line to ensure all wet drywall is removed.
• Clean with soap and water first, then disinfect with a diluted bleach solution (1 and 2/3rd cup bleach to 1 gallon of water) to control mold and bacteria.
- Do not use full strength bleach. This increases the chance of breathing problems and does not increase disinfection.
• Allow flooded spaces to dry thoroughly before rebuilding the walls or laying new carpet. It may be necessary to use large fans and dehumidifiers to dry the space completely.

For further information including detailed instructions for eliminating and preventing mold call the Department of Public Health for Madison and Dane County at (608) 266-4821.

Additional information is available at the following:

Public Health Madison and Dane County

American Red Cross (Repairing Your Flooded Home)

WI Department of Natural Resources

US Environmental Protection Agency:

If you or your neighbor's well head has been covered by flood water, there is a high risk that your water supply will be contaminated. Water that is cloudy, colored or bad smelling is a sure sign of contamination and should not be used for drinking, making juice, baby food or ice cubes or for rinsing food or dishes. Even if water from a flooded well looks clear, the safest approach is to assume it has been contaminated.

In these conditions, you should rely on bottled water, or water from a known safe source. If you must use water from the well, it should be boiled for one minute at a rolling boil. Testing your well water is something that should be done routinely every year. In flood conditions you should have your water tested for bacteria and other contaminants as soon as possible.

It is very important that the water from a flooded well be tested. Testing for bacteria is available to householders in Dane County with flooded wells though the Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) Laboratory at (608) 266-4821. The Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene at (608) 224-6262, is also available for such testing.

Wells that test positive for bacterial contamination must be disinfected. For information on how to properly disinfect your well, go to:



  • Jeff Golden, 243-0302