Widespread Flooding Triggers Health Alert

For immediate release:
June 13, 2002

Contact: Larry Crist
Director of Health Protection
Vermont Department of Health

BURLINGTON—Vermont public health officials have issued a health alert in connection with flooding in several areas of the state.

“We are advising people with drinking water wells in flooded areas to assume that their water is contaminated,” said Larry Crist, director of health protection for the Vermont Department of Health.

People should take precautions to protect their health, Crist said, if any of the following conditions exist:

Residents who observe any of the above conditions should contact their local district office of the Vermont Department of Health for disinfection instructions and FREE water test kits.

District health offices (listed on the health department’s website, at www.HealthyVermonters.info) and numbers are as follows:

“Until the water is disinfected and a water test confirms that the water is safe,” Crist said, “everyone using potentially contaminated well water should boil their water for 5 minutes to make it safe for drinking, cooking, making juice or ice, washing fruits and vegetables or brushing teeth — or else they should use bottled water.

To qualify for a free water test, samples must be submitted according to instructions in the kit. Samples also must be clearly marked “contaminated by flooding.”

Other areas of concern:

Food – Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwater unless you can clean and cook it thoroughly, health officials said. If in doubt, throw it out.

Gardens – If garden produce came into contact with floodwaters, discard any fruit or vegetables that cannot be washed AND cooked prior to consumption. This includes produce like lettuce, spinach, strawberries, and peas or beans to be eaten raw. Root crops like carrots should be safe to eat if thoroughly washed.

Cleanup – If there has been a back flow of sewage into 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.

Recreation – Sewage may enter streams and rivers in flooded areas, making them unsafe for swimming.

For more information, Vermonters may call 800-439-8550.