State Health Department: Flooding Threatens Drinking Water Supplies in Multiple Upstate Counties

"Boil Water" Orders Have Been Issued In Several Counties Because of Possible Contamination

ALBANY, NY, June 30, 2006 - In the aftermath of the recent heavy rains and flooding, State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. reminds people in affected areas that many public and private drinking water supplies have been contaminated and special precautions must be taken.

"During the widespread flooding that has occurred in the Catskills, Central New York and the Southern Tier over the past four days, many drinking water supplies have been affected," Dr. Novello said. "There is the potential for disease-causing germs to contaminate drinking water sources during a flood. Any water supply that has been flooded is at risk and water should be disinfected before use. This includes any private drinking water well that is shallow and draws water from near or in a flooded area."

Water that appears cloudy, muddy, or even slightly discolored from normal, is suspect and should not be used for drinking or cooking until it is disinfected. The easiest and most secure way to disinfect is to bring water to a full rolling boil and maintain the full boil for at least one minute.

Health officials recommend that private drinking water wells that have been flooded should be tested before they are used. Contact your local health department for information about residential well testing. Public or municipal drinking water systems are being evaluated by the state and county health departments to determine if boil water advisories or other actions are needed to ensure safe drinking water.

Water Districts are required to notify the public if a boil water order is issued. Residents should check the newspapers, radio and television to learn whether they need to boil their water. To date, boil water orders are in effect for some, but not all, drinking water systems in Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Greene, Montgomery, Otsego, Orange and Sullivan counties. Not every drinking water system is affected in these counties. Questions may also be directed to the local public works or water department, or local health department.

For additional information on drinking water and private drinking water wells please call the Department's Environmental Health information line at 1-800-458-1158 during working hours.

Those interested in additional information may visit www.semo.state.ny.us or www.health.ny.gov. The following link http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/7064/ will direct you to a publication, Don't be Left in the Dark, and additional helpful advice.