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AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Heavy rainfall in North Alabama has resulted in flooding and evacuations in the Tennessee Valley area. Flooded campgrounds along Weiss Lake displaced septic holding tanks and propane tanks.
Danny Miller, Extension coordinator for Cherokee County, said that Cherokee County was hard hit by the flood waters especially in areas around Weiss Lake.
“The lake is expected to reach 7 feet above summer pool by Tuesday evening,” Miller said. “Many campgrounds and residences around the lake are submerged. Also, many acres of farmland currently stands under water.”
Dr. Eve Brantley, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist, said there are several important points to remember as floodwaters recede and damages can be assessed.
After a flood, water sources may be contaminated. Brantley, who specializes in water resources—including drinking water—said water with contaminants should be avoided.
“It is very important to avoid contact with water that may have been contaminated with untreated human or animals waste and other toxins,” Brantley said.
When dealing with contaminants like septic or propane tanks, she advises residents to consult local emergency management authorities. Follow guidelines put in place by local emergency response teams.
Flooded Wells: Shock Chlorination
Flooded wells must be disinfected to ensure safety and cleanliness after a flood. One method of disinfection is shock chlorination.
Brantley strongly recommends hiring a licensed well driller come to shock chlorinate a flooded well. A driller will have access to more effective products, as well as equipment and experience that a typical well owner will not have. However, if a licensed driller cannot be hired, Alabama Extension offers step-by-step directions to shock chlorinate a well here. Find printable version here.
Flooded Ponds and Spillways
Alabama Extension aquatic resources specialist, Dr. Rusty Wright, said flood damage to pipe and emergency spillways could be serious. Check for erosion on the dam and banks that could weaken the structure.
In addition to pipes and spillway damage, Wright said there are a few biological concerns that come with flooding and ponds.
“We often recommend stocking grass carp as part of a weed control and prevention strategy,” Wright said. “Grass carp are riverine species and will leave the pond during flushing events if there isn’t a barrier to keep them in. That is expensive and leads to poor weed control.”
If flooding from local streams washes into a pond it can bring in fish and other critters (weeds, invertebrates like crayfish etc.) that can be detrimental to a pond.
“Flooding can wash in fireants that float on the surface in rafts,” Wright said. “Bluegill have been known to die after eating fireants. This sometimes happens after swarms in the spring but can also happen after flooding.”
Wright recommends the following steps:
- Check for safety concerns like dam and emergency spillway erosion.
- Check for blockages of the primary spillway, emergency spillway and damage to a grass carp barrier if you have one.
- Check on the pond over the next few weeks to see if there are any obvious fish problems—like fish kills—and watch over the spring and early summer to see if weeds start to become a problem.
- If the pond was flooded, schedule a pond check from the ADCNR Division of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists.
Pond owners can also contact Dr. Alan Wilson, an associate professor in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Resources, with questions about harmful algal blooms when floodwaters subside. County Extension offices will also be able to direct pond owners to testing and recovery resources.
Flood Recovery Resources
Find a comprehensive list of Alabama Extension’s flood recovery resources on www.aces.edu. The flood recovery resources page includes links to articles, publications and videos that may aid in the recovery process.