Banner Environmental Health: Preventing pollution, reducing human exposure to environmental hazards, and ensuring safe and clean drinking water.

Important health reminders during heavy rains and storms

During times of widespread and significant rainfall, the Kitsap Public Health District advises the public to be aware of health risks associated with bad weather, power outages, stormwater runoff, flooding and sewage spills.

DRINKING WATER SAFETY

Store one gallon of water per person, per day to be prepared for storms and emergencies.

Public water systems: If there is flooding, local authorities or water system operators may recommend using only bottled, boiled, or disinfected water until regular water service is restored.

Private wells / small water systems: If a drinking water well is flooded, Kitsap Public
Health advises residents use bottled water that has been stored less than six months in tightly sealed containers, or take steps to disinfect well water. If your drinking water well is flooded, assume the water in your home is contaminated. Wells may require disinfection if flooded.

Purifying by boiling:

  • If your tap water is unsafe, boiling is the best method to kill disease-causing organisms.
  • Cloudy water should be filtered before boiling. Filter cloudy water using coffee filters, paper towels, cheesecloth or a cotton plug in a funnel.
  • Bring the water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute.
  • Let the water cool before drinking.
  • Add two drops of household bleach per gallon to maintain water quality while in storage.

Purifying with bleach:

  • Treat water by adding liquid household bleach, such as Clorox or Purex.
  • Household bleach is typically between 5.25 percent and 8.25 percent chlorine. Read the label.
  • Avoid using bleaches that contain perfumes, dyes and other additives. Be sure to read the label.
  • Cloudy water should be filtered before adding bleach.
  • Place the water in a clean container. Add 1/4 teaspoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water, or 1 teaspoon of bleach to five gallons of water. (See this page for additional guidance.)
  • Mix thoroughly and let stand for at least 60 minutes before drinking.

ON-SITE SEWAGE / SEPTIC SYSTEMS

Septic systems may not operate properly if soil in the drainfield area becomes saturated. If your drainfield is very wet or under water, reduce your indoor water use to critical uses only to prevent failure of the system. Overusing a septic system when the drainfield is flooded may cause sewage to back up into the house or rise to the surface in your drainfield area.

During extreme wet weather, property owners can follow simple steps to protect their septic systems and property:

  • Spread water use during the day and week to even out water flow to your drainfield.
  • Refrain from using the washing machine, cut back on toilet flushes, and reduce bathing.
  • Identify and repair all leaky plumbing fixtures. A running toilet or a leaky faucet can discharge many gallons of extra water each day to your drainfield.
  • Identify and repair all leaky septic tanks, risers, etc.
  • Divert all surface waters and downspouts away from your sewage system.

DEALING WITH FLOOD WATER

Flood waters often carry disease-causing organisms and other types of pollutants, requiring precautions to prevent illness. Because floodwaters may be contaminated, if the home is flooded, Kitsap Public Health recommends that people:

  • Wash their hands with soap and disinfected water before preparing or eating food or after handling contaminated items.
  • Discard all food that has come in contact with floodwater. Canned food is safe to use, but disinfect cans by wiping them with bleach water before use.

DO NOT HARVEST SHELLFISH

Stormwater can pollute shellfish beds. Do not harvest shellfish from shorelines near populated areas during — and for at least five days after — heavy rainfall. 


GENERATOR USE DURING A POWER OUTAGE

Incorrect generator use can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from toxic engine exhaust, electric shock, or electrocution and fire.

  • Follow directions supplied with the generator.
  • Don't overload your generator.
  • Never use portable generators or barbecues indoors.

FOOD SAFETY DURING A POWER OUTAGE

If the power has gone out:

  • Use a thermometer to check the temperature of foods in your refrigerator and freezer. Refrigerated foods should be 41°F or colder and frozen foods should be 0°F or colder.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to conserve cold air or keep food cold with ice or dry ice. During a power outage, a full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours or about 24 hours if it is half-full. A refrigerator will keep food safe for about 4 hours.
  • If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish, or eggs while they are still at safe temperatures, cook them thoroughly to ensure any harmful bacteria are destroyed.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! Never taste food to determine its safety. The following foods should be discarded if you decide to throw food away:
    • Meat, poultry, or seafood products
    • Soft cheese and shredded cheese
    • Milk, cream, yogurt, and other dairy products
    • Opened baby formula
    • Eggs and egg products
    • Dough and cooked pasta
    • Cooked or cut produce

More information is available by calling Kitsap Public Health at (360) 728-2235 or visiting the Kitsap County inclement weather page, and KitsapDEM.org

 


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