Box Elder County may be at risk for water contamination

BOX ELDER COUNTY, Utah -- Many people in Box Elder County are still pumping water out of their basements, after weeks of flooding, but now the Bear River Health Department is worried about drinking water possibly being contaminated with harmful bacteria.

"This is bigger than normal so we don't know how contaminated things are going to be and that's why we are offering this testing so we can kind of get a handle on what's out there," said Sarah Cheshire, who tests water samples with the Bear River Health Department.

Bear River said anyone with a private well who was affected by flooding is at risk.

"It could be septic tank flooding, it could be animal feed yards flooding into your well, and that's something you don't want to drink," said Cheshire. "If you have bacteria in your water it can potentially make you sick, you could have nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and those sorts of symptoms."

County Commissioner Stan Summers predicts 10-15 percent of Box Elder County is on well water and out of those between 50 to 100 homes had major flooding, including his own neighbors.

"I think it's a legitimate concern that people ought to take a look and see what's going on in their own houses," said Summers.

The health department said just eyeballing the water isn't good enough.

"You can't see, smell or taste bacteria so you don't know what's in there unless you have the test done," said Cheshire.

The test results should be returned to the residents within 24 hours. If the water is dirty the health department says it will walk residents through the process of cleaning their well with chlorine.

"We have dosages and charts that will tell us how much depending on how deep or shallow the well is, how much water is flowing through there," said Cheshire.

The testing is free and is available at three different health department locations during regular business hours. Those locations are 817 W. 950 South in Brigham City, 440 W. 600 North in Tremonton and 655 E. 1300 North in Logan. For more information go to their website at http://www.brhd.org.

A disaster relief fund has also been set up for those victims through the United Way Disaster Relief Fund. For more information on that go to uwnu.org.