MAYVILLE – Once flood waters recede there is still a strong need for concern and caution, according to the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Resources.
The department issued a warning about what to consider once flooding has leveled off and receded.
One major area for concern is safe drinking water. Drinking contaminated water may cause illness. Customers of public water sources in cities or villages are asked to pay attention to local announcements on safety of the water supply. If necessary, a boil water notice will be issued, officials said.
Those who use a well as their water source may not be safe either, according to the department. Floods that cover a well could contain disease-causing organisms and may remain unsafe to drink. For private wells that have been flooded, one of the following is recommended: Boil water for at least one minute before using it for drinking, washing and cooking. Users are cautioned to disinfect water by adding eight drops of unscented household bleach per gallon of water, and then let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the procedure. It is advised to use only bottled water, especially for mixing baby formula.
Once flooding subsides it is suggested to disinfect your well using the procedures available from the Health Department or on-line at http://www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/260/Private-Drinking-Water www.nyhealth.gov; and have water tested for bacteria by the health department or by a laboratory certified by New York State to perform a drinking water analysis prior to using the water.
Contaminated surface water is also a concern. According to the department, several wastewater treatment plants in the northern area of the county discharged partially-treated sewage into tributaries of Lake Erie or the lake itself It is best, they advise, to assume all flood water contains untreated sewage. People are urged to stay out of standing water and puddles, stay out of creeks and lakes including Lake Erie until the Beach Closure website indicates that it is safe to swim. http://www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/246/Beach-Closings. Creeks are not tested so should never be assumed as a safe swimming spot.
Drinking water isn’t the only digestive concern, as contaminated food could also be an issue. Officials urge people to not eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwaters and to discard any food without a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with floodwaters. Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if the labels are fully removed, the cans washed and disinfected with a solution of 1/4-cup of unscented household bleach per gallon of water for clean surfaces. Re-label such cans, including the expiration date, with a marker. Food containers with screw-caps, snap lids and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come in contact with floodwaters because they cannot be disinfected.
Common items can also become contaminated, according to officials.
People are asked to discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers. There is no way to safely clean them if they have come in contact with contaminated floodwaters. Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils with soap and hot water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1/4-cup of household bleach per gallon of water.
Basic hygiene is very important during natural disaster. Always wash hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected and cooled. Hands should be washed before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, after handling uncooked food, after playing with a pet, after handling garbage, after tending to someone who is sick or injured, after blowing one’s nose, coughing or sneezing, after participating in flood cleanup activities and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
For further information, please contact the Environmental Health Division of the Chautauqua County Department of Health & Human Services at 716-753-4489 or visit www.co.chautauqua.ny.us .