RALEIGH - State environmental health officials are advising residents in potential flood-affected areas following Hurricane Earl that they may need to take precautions to keep their drinking water safe.
Flooded public and private wells, flooded treatment plants and pressure losses from broken lines and lost electrical power greatly increase the risk from contaminated water.
“If you lose power or your well floods, conserve water until you know your water system is up and running,” said Jessica Miles, chief of the Public Water Supply Section in the Division of Environmental Health. “There are certain steps you can follow to protect your health and the health of your family if your well is flooded or you have lost water pressure.”
Steps to take may include boiling all water used for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, making ice and washing hands for one minute, or using bottled or stored water. If you cannot boil the water, disinfect the water by adding plain, unscented household bleach (which is 4 - 6 percent chlorine) using 1/8 teaspoon, or 8 drops, of unscented bleach for each gallon of water, stir and let stand for at least 30 minutes before you use it. Water should have a slight bleach odor. If not, repeat the procedure. Affected public water systems will issue notices to their users, but storm damage, such as downed trees or loss of power, may cause delays in notification times.
Boiling water concentrates any levels of nitrates that may be present in the water. YOUNG INFANTS AND PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD USE BOTTLED OR STORED WATER INSTEAD OF BOILED TAP WATER WHENEVER POSSIBLE FOR DRINKING AND COOKING. If you do not have bottled water available for pregnant women and infants, it is better for them to drink boiled water than to drink water that is not boiled and may be contaminated. It is important not to become dehydrated.
Customers of public water systems should contact their utilities or operators for information on the water quality. Private well users should contact their local health departments or visit http://www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/storminfo.htm for advice on disinfecting flooded wells.