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Commonly asked flood-related questions
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has received questions concerning debris management and other issues caused by the mid-March flooding. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions and their answers.

Can I burn carcasses that are on my property?
Yes, with proper permits obtained by NDEQ and the local fire department.

Do I have to pump my septic tank after the flood?
No, you do not have to pump. You should check to make sure it has not filled with mud or sediment from the flood.

Can a livestock operation discharge directly into a stream?
The operation needs to do what would have the least environmental impact. Discharging to a stream should be the absolute last resort if it can be demonstrated that there was not any other option. The operation should look for a location to pump to and send any water over cropland or grass.

Is the dust in the air OK to breathe after the flood?
While inhalation of dust is not advisable, the possible health issues associated with inhaling biological constituents related to dust in flooded areas should not be an issue. Upon drying out, the E. coli or other bacteria will die from lack of moisture, and ultraviolet light from the sun will also aid in neutralizing the bacteria.

How do I get rid of animal carcasses?
If you are a producer, contact your local Natural Resource Conservation Service office to find out what programs they offer. If you are not a producer, the NDEQ has guidance on the proper disposal of animal carcasses.

What can I do with all the sand that washed onto my property or sandbags?
NDEQ has guidance documents for both sand and sandbags. In general, flood sediment should not be used in ways that will involve direct human contact, such as children’s play areas or residential gardening. Common management options include using the sediment as fill material, daily cover on a landfill or disposal in a municipal or construction and demolition landfill. Dairies can also use the sand in their barns as bedding material or sand lanes.

What can I do with the household chemicals I use routinely in my home?
Ideally, continue to use the chemicals for their intended purpose. However, household hazardous waste can also be disposed along with your normal household garbage. In some areas, your local emergency manager may be setting up areas to collect these chemical for disposal. Check with your local emergency manager.

My well was flooded. What should I test for?
Coliform bacteria and nitrates are the primary contaminants that should be tested for.

Where can I get my water tested?
Test kits can be ordered from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ Public Health Environmental Lab by calling (402) 471-2122.

Are fish that have been swimming in flood waters safe to eat?
While flood waters carried contaminants, there was also fresh water from snow melt and rainfall that carried these contaminants downstream. The fish were not exposed to these contaminants for a long period of time, so it is unlikely that contaminants accumulated in the fishes’ tissues.

Are lakes safe for swimming?
Contaminants that were in lakes were likely diluted by snow melt and rainfall. Additionally, the sun’s UV rays readily kills most bacteria. Since the flooding, it is likely that bacteria levels in sandpit lakes have dropped dramatically. Those concerned about the state of private lakes can contact their local laboratories or call NDEQ at (402) 471-2186.

More information and guidance on flood recovery can be found on NDEQ’s website at deq.ne.gov. Nebraskans can also call the department’s hotline at 1-877-253-2603 with questions.

This page was updated May 2019.