What to drink, eat and throw away after a flood

From Bonnie Hamilton, Public Health Director for Delaware County:

Be Safe After a Flood

Contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, or other headaches, symptoms…so make sure you disinfect all water before drinking it or using it to prepare food by:

  1. Bringing water to a rolling boil for two minutes 
  2. Then let the water cool before drinking  
  3. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring it back and forth between two containers. 

*It is safe to shower/shave with unboiled water as long as the water is not swallowed*

Well Contamination

If the area around your well was flooded or if you suspect that your well is contaminated, you need to shock the well and well before using it. You should continue disinfection at the tap until the water is tested and flush found suitable for drinking. Contact the New York State Department of Health at 607-432-3911 for support with well disinfection. Well test kits are no longer available through the New York State.

The following commercial labs will test water:

KINGSTON Kingston Water Department Laboratory - 845-679-2216 - $35 fee

ONEONTA Oneonta Water Lab - 607-433-3486 - $35 fee

When in Doubt Throw It Out!!

• Throw out raw foods

• Canned foods can be used unless the cans are swollen, rusted, seriously dented, or the contents cannot be identified. Wash off food cans that are still sealed and disinfect them for five minutes in a bleach solution of two teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water.

• Food in the refrigerator will remain cold for four to six hours if the door isn’t open, food in the freezer will stay frozen for about one day.

• Some foods normally kept in the refrigerator are okay to keep even if they have been at room temperature for a few days (Ex. Butter/Margarine, Hard Cheese, Fresh Fruit/Veggies

• Discard food containers and jars with lids that are screwed or pressed on (soda bottles, pickle jars, jars or sauce)

• Use boiled or bottled water to make ice

• Thoroughly wash dishes, utensils, and cookware using soap and water, hot water if available. Rinse, then sanitize by immersing in a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach per gallon of drinking water. Sanitize sterling silver by putting it in boiling water for at least two minutes Bacteria and mold brought into the home during flooding may present a health hazard. Dry out your home as quickly as possible.

• Open windows and doors to provide plenty of fresh air

• Discard items that have been soaked with flood waters. Dehumidifiers, fans, and open windows all help to dry out your home.

• Remove standing water and wet materials

• If mold growth has already occurred, carefully remove the moldy material with the bleach mixture (2 teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water)

• Consider using personal protective equipment when cleaning or removing mold-gloves, goggles and a mask if possible

• DO NOT mix products containing chlorine with ammonia based products - They may produce chemical reactions and gasses that can be hazardous or even fatal.

• Never use generators or propane or barbeque grills in indoor spaces – this can cause carbon monoxide gas poisoning