Post-Sandy drinking water safety

Post-Sandy drinking water safety

POSTED: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 10:00am

UPDATED: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 10:04am

Ever heard the line, "Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink?" Never is that more true than during a hurricane.

Superstorm Sandy came ashore Monday night, flooding parts of the East Coast. After a natural disaster, your water may not be safe for use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes any water used for drinking, cooking, food preparation and/or personal hygiene.

Residents in Sandy's path should be on the lookout for boil water advisories from their local and state departments of health, as well as from utility companies. These signify that your water may be contaminated.

Still, even if no notice has been issued, consumers should never assume that water in a flood-affected area is safe to drink, the Rhode Island Department of Health says.

Flood waters may permeate the public water supply or private wells, bringing disease-causing organisms like viruses and parasites.

"Limit toilet flushing and showering, and avoid using dishwashers and washing machines," Rhode Island's emergency site states. "These appliances all drain water into the sewage treatment system. Continual use could cause sewage backup and overflow."

Using bottled water is, of course, the easiest option. Otherwise, boiling is the most effective way to disinfect water, according to the CDC.

To properly kill bacteria, boil water for a full minute. If you cannot boil your water due to power outages, you may add 1/8 teaspoon of unscented, liquid bleach into a gallon of water and wait for 30 minutes before use.

If your water is cloudy, filter if first through a paper towel or coffee filter. It's important to note, the CDC says, that boiling or bleaching water will not detoxify water contaminated with fuel or other chemicals. Seek another water source if you suspect yours is toxic.

For more information, visit the CDC's website at http://emergency.cdc.gov 

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