DNR tips for keeping drinking water safe

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is advising Missouri residents to take precautions with their drinking water due to the recent flooding activities across the state.

Due to the recent rain events, some public water systems have experienced flooding, cracking water lines, low water pressure and, in some instances, complete water outages. Low pressure and broken lines allow contaminants to enter drinking water, so people in these situations need to consider boiling their drinking water.

Residents should contact their public water supply directly for further information and consult the local news media for notification when any health advisories have been issued or lifted. The local water supplier has the most up-to-date information about problems in the area, such as broken water mains, low water pressure or any other possible sources of contamination.

"If an area was without water pressure for any period of time, residents should boil their water for three minutes for drinking.This should continue until they are notified that samples have been taken proving the water is safe to drink," said Department of Natural Resources Director Doyle Childers. "We have advised water systems to collect and test three samples in one day to ensure the water is safe."

While loss of pressure does not necessarily mean the water has been contaminated, it does mean that there is the potential that contamination inside houses, businesses and factories could flow backward into the water system and carried to customers. As long as adequate water pressure has been maintained through the flood, people should need only to flush their water pipes.

Boil Water Procedures

  • Boil water vigorously for three minutes prior to use. Use only boiled water for drinking, brushing teeth, diluting fruit juices and all other food preparation or consumption. Use of bottled water may be a feasible, though relatively expensive, alternative to boiling tap water when under a boil water order.
  • Do not use ice from a household automatic icemaker or use any ice made with un-boiled water from this system. Make ice cubes with water that has been boiled or purchase ice.
  • Disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersing for at least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water.
  • Allow water to cool sufficiently before drinking.

Water used for hand washing or bathing does not generally need to be boiled. Supervision of children is necessary while bathing to ensure they do not ingest water. Boil water advisories typically last about two days, allowing systems to return operating pressure to normal, collect samples for bacteriological testing and receive the laboratory results.

If boiling water is not feasible, several procedures for chemical disinfection of drinking water can be found at www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/emerg.html.

The department encourages individuals who experience water outages or have questions about their drinking water to contact the nearest Department of Natural Resources' Regional Office by calling

1-800-361-4827 or (573) 751-5331 or if available by visiting the Web at www.dnr.mo.gov/regions/regions.htm. To see a map of current boil orders in the state, visit www.dnr.mo.gov/env/wpp/boil/boilmap.jpg.

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