State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation Today Reminded New Yorkers of a Public Health Alert for Drinking Water in Multiple Upstate Counties

New York State
Department of Health
Antonia C. Novello, M.D. M.P.H, Dr.P.H.
Contact: Robert Kenny
518-474-7354, ext. 1
Department of Environmental Conservation
Denise M. Sheehan
Contact: Maureen Wren

Boil Water Orders Remain in Effect in Seven Counties

ALBANY, NY, July 6, 2006 – Noting that conditions are improving, but that many public and private drinking water supplies remain unsafe due to flooding, State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. and State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan, today reminded New Yorkers that precautions must be taken in flood-impacted areas to prevent illness and the spread of disease.

"People should not be consuming or bathing in water known or suspect to be contaminated due to flooding. Many drinking water supplies that have been flooded are at risk for contamination and water should be disinfected before use," Dr. Novello said. "There is the potential for disease-causing germs to contaminate drinking water sources as a result of the flooding."

"Although conditions are improving, New Yorker's are advised to continue exercising considerable caution with regard to recreation in waters that have been affected, said Sheehan. "Concerns include fast-moving currents, high flows, debris, diminished water clarity and elevated bacteria levels. We continue to work with state and local officials to assist in getting wastewater treatment facilities back online in the communities impacted by floods."

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, Herkimer, 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.

The State Health Department routinely monitors public drinking water supplies and designated public bathing areas to ensure waters are safe. In waters not specifically designated as public bathing areas, the public is always advised to use sound judgment when swimming and boating.

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. This includes any private drinking water well that is shallow and draws water from or near an area that is located in the flooded areas.

State 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. Private homeowners can use local environmental laboratories to have their private wells tested. Instructions are also available on how to sample private drinking water wells and recommended action steps for assessing and restoring water wells. 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.

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

Those interested in additional information may visit the State Health Department web site at and/or the State Environmental Conservation web site at