Predicting and Equipping Private Well Owners at Risk of Microbial Contamination After Flooding Events in the Alabama Black Belt

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University of Alabama Libraries

Private well owners in Alabama, totaling approximately eight-hundred thousand individuals, bear the sole responsibility for ensuring the quality of their water supply. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have regulations in place for private wells. While state government programs provide guidance on well treatment and testing, the obligation lies on well-owners to monitor and maintain the health of their private systems. Although groundwater is generally low in contaminants, septic system failures due to soil conditions combined with flooding from frequent storms have created a groundwater quality epidemic in the Black Belt region of Alabama.Floodwater can infiltrate wells for extended periods, potentially exposing households to Escherichia coli (E. coli) and fecal coliforms. Here, the impact of flooding on well water users across the Black Belt was quantified. A case-study approach was employed to identify microbial contamination in shallow groundwater wells and geospatial modeling was used to characterize flooding risk across the Black Belt. The compilation of available and reliable resources into a single-point source will aid in educating and equipping well owners to reduce their exposure to microbial contaminants. By developing a comprehensive flood-induced contamination risk assessment model and providing accessible water quality testing resources, this research supports the protection of private wells and the well-being of communities in the Black Belt region of Alabama.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Black Belt, Flooding, Microbial Contamination, Private Wells