Boil Water Alerts Following Hurricane Harvey
Water Quality Association Provides Information on Public Health Concerns
LISLE, Ill. – Disasters, such as floods can gravely compromise public water systems. The conventional and highly appropriate response of municipalities, health departments, and other regulatory agencies in times of water emergencies is to notify all consumers to boil all water used for drinking or culinary purposes until bacteriological samples demonstrate that the water is safe, and/or until appropriate corrective actions have been completed.
The Water Quality Association (WQA) recommends residents to follow the notices from their public water system, including boil water alerts. For residents that have drinking water treatment systems (i.e. water softeners; reverse osmosis) at their home, it is important to take these systems offline to disinfect and protect the system. The water treatment system should be disinfected separately following manufacturer’s instructions or the cleaning and sanitizing guidelines below. Wait until the public water system has lifted the boil water alert and has said the water is safe to drink before reconnecting the water treatment system.
What is a Boil Water Alert?
A boil water alert is issued by a public water system when there is a known or suspected microbial contaminant in the drinking water distribution system. A boil water alert may be issued in response to a known event or as a precautionary measure to protect the public in case microbial contaminants are present. The microbes could be viral, bacterial, or protozoan, any of which can cause severe health issues. The alert will instruct residents to boil all water used for drinking, cooking, food preparation, brushing teeth, and making ice. The most sensitive populations to microbial contaminants include children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.
How does a Boil Water Alert differ from a Do Not Drink or Do Not Use notice?
A Do Not Drink or Do Not Use notice may indicate chemical contamination and advises consumers to find alternative drinking water sources because boiling will not make the water safe for these specific contaminants. This type of notice advises residents to avoid contact with the water.
For more information on a boil water alert notice, consult the municipality, water district, or regulatory agency that has oversight for the water system. Knowing the specific circumstances of the boil water alert will help you determine your next actions.
For more information or help on disinfection contact a water treatment provider in your area and certified water treatment professionals who have completed WQA’s professional certification program. Visit WQA’s website for a searchable database:http://www.wqa.org/find-providers or Texas WQA at: https://twqa.org/
WQA is a not-for-profit trade association representing the residential, commercial, and industrial water treatment industry. Since 1959, the WQA Gold Seal certification program has been certifying products that contribute to the safe consumption of water. The WQA Gold Seal program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC).
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