The Flood Water Is Gone, But Risks May Remain

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Release date: 
May 22, 2001
Release Number: 

West Salem, WI -- Floodwaters can contaminate drinking water, food and even dwellings. Emergency officials urge residents to be aware of risks that remain after the water has receded.

Below are tips from Wisconsin Emergency Management.

Do not drink water if it is cloudy, odorous or colored. Strain cloudy water by pouring it through a clean, tightly woven cloth. Then disinfect it by boiling or bleaching. Never use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food or make ice. Drink bottled water, if available, or make water safe by doing one of the following:

  • Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute;
  • Add household bleach, using two to four drops per quart, or 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water. Shake and let stand for 90 minutes.

Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwater. Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps, twist caps, flip tops and home- canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with floodwater.

If you have raw sewage or sewage-contaminated water in your basement, wear protective boots and gloves when entering the area.

Maintain the system that is functional by minimizing water usage from toilet flushing, showering and clothes washing. If your septic system has failed, it may not be beneficial to use the technique "PUMP AND HAUL." This method of treatment might damage or collapse your septic system. Contact your local health department or zoning agency if you have questions.

If your septic system has failed, it is important to check your private well water closely. If there is any change in taste, odors, or color, discontinue drinking immediately. Sheen on standing water or a gasoline smell also may indicate contamination. All private wells should be tested for bacteria.

Do not pump your basement water into the sanitary sewer or a septic system, which is already overloaded. Pump out to grade, if possible.

After the floodwaters around your property have subsided, drain flooded basement carefully and slowly and in stages, no more than one foot per day.

Cover broken windows and holes in the roof or walls to prevent further damage. Take all wooden furniture outdoors to dry, but keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent warping. A garage or carport is a good place for drying. Remove drawers and other moving parts as soon as possible, but do not pry open swollen drawers from the front. Instead, remove the backing and push the drawers out.

Shovel out mud while it is still moist to give walls and floors a chance to dry. Once plastered walls have dried, brush off loose dirt. Wash with household cleanser and rinse with clean water; always start at the bottom and work up. Ceilings are done last. Special attention must also be paid to cleaning out heating ducts and plumbing systems.

Mildew can be removed from dry wood with a solution of one cup liquid chlorine bleach, in one gallon of water.

Clean metal at once then wipe with a kerosene-soaked cloth. A light coat of oil will prevent iron from rusting. Scour all utensils, and, if necessary, use fine steel wool on unpolished surfaces. Aluminum may be brightened by scrubbing with a solution of vinegar, cream of tartar and hot water.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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