After the Flood Health and Safety Recommendations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 9, 2005

CONTACT: Communication Office
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON - The Vermont Department of Health has issued drinking water and food safety recommendations for residents in Windham and Bennington counties affected by flooding due to heavy rains this past weekend.

“We are advising people with drinking water wells in the flood areas to assume their water was contaminated and get it tested,” said Larry Crist, director of health protection for the Vermont Department of Health. A well may have been contaminated even if you cannot see, smell or taste a change in the water.

Residents are advised to contact their town health officer or local district office of the Vermont Department of Health for a free laboratory test kit and disinfection instructions. Call during regular office hours 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or leave a message after hours for the Brattleboro office - 802-257-2880 or 888-253-8805 (toll-free) or the Bennington office - 802-447-3531 or 800-637-7347 (toll-free).

“If there’s any possibility that your well water has become contaminated, assume that it is contaminated and boil water for one minute to make it safe for drinking, cooking, making juice or ice, washing fruits and vegetables and brushing teeth - or use bottled water,” Crist said.

The well should be disinfected with bleach and well water tested after you can no longer smell the bleach. Do not consume water without boiling until laboratory test results confirm the water is safe for drinking. (See our Drinking Water Disinfection Guide for details.)

Health officials also made the following recommendations:

Food – Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwater unless you can clean and cook it thoroughly. If in doubt, throw it out. Gardens – If garden produce comes into contact with floodwaters, discard any fruit or vegetables that cannot be washed AND cooked prior to consumption. This includes produce often eaten raw like lettuce and produce typically cooked before eaten such as squash and pumpkins. Root crops, like carrots, should also be washed and cooked before eaten.

Perishable foods like eggs, meat, fish, milk, etc. that have been above 41 degrees F for more than four hours should be discarded. An average full freezer, which has not been opened repeatedly while the power has been off, keeps foods below 41 degrees for two to three days. Freezers that are not fully packed keep food at that temperature for a shorter period of time. Refrigerated foods that may have reached room temperature for two hours or more should be discarded.

Cleanup – If there has been a backflow of sewage into the house or contaminated floodwaters entered the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup.Walls and hard-surfaced floors should be cleaned with soap and water, and disinfected with a solution of 1/2 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Disinfect food contact surfaces in the same manner. The house should be dried out as soon as possible. For more information on cleaning a house that has been flooded and preventing the growth of mold, visit the Health Department website: http://healthvermont.gov, then search for Flooding Guide.

Recreation – Sewage and debris may enter streams and rivers in flooded areas, making them unsafe for wading, swimming, boating or any other use.

More information about water testing and cleaning up after a flood can be found at the Health Department website: http://healthvermont.gov, then search for Flooding Guide. Or call the Vermont Department of Health’s 24/7 automated flood information line at 1-800-695-0022 (toll-free).