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EPA Encourages Homeowners Impacted by Hurricane Ike to Take Proper Measures To Safeguard Drinking Water

Release Date: 10/21/2008
Contact Information: Dave Bary or Tressa Tillman at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov

(Dallas, Texas - October 21, 2008) - Homeowners who are still concerned about the quality and safety of their drinking water following Hurricane Ike are encouraged to be pro-active in ensuring that all proper measures to safeguard drinking water in the home are taken.

As a result of flooding and the speed and direction of ground water flow, some pumps and wells used to provide drinking water for homes may be contaminated with bacteria and other pollutants. What follows are some tips that will help in taking the appropriate steps in securing safe drinking water.

Only water that has been disinfected should be used for drinking, cooking, making any prepared drink, or for brushing teeth. Bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters should be used. If residents do not have bottled water, there are ways to ensure that the water is safe for consumption and use. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to boil water. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, it should be filtered through clean cloths or allowed to settle. Then, clear water can be drawn off for boiling. Residents should boil the water for one minute, let it cool and store it in clean containers with covers.

If boiling is not a possibility, chemical disinfection of filtered and settled water collected from a well, spring, river, or other surface water body will still provide some health benefits and is better than no treatment at all. Residents can disinfect contaminated water with household bleach by adding 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stirring it well and letting it stand for 30 minutes before use.

If a resident has a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after floodwaters recede. When emergency disinfection is necessary, disinfectants are less effective in cloudy, murky or colored water. After filtering until it is clear, or allowing all dirt and other particles to settle, clean and clear water may be drawn off for disinfection.

Boiling and chemical treatment are two general methods used to effectively disinfect small quantities of filtered and settled water. Boiling is the surest method to make water safe, but when done correctly, chemical disinfection is just as effective.

Information on home water treatment units is available from EPA by phone at 1-800-426-4791 or the U.S. EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/region6/disaster/pdf/private_wells.pdf.


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