Be careful of contaminated water after flood

Contaminated flood waters may have impacted the private water wells in flooded areas, and the drinking water may not be safe to drink. A bacteria test is necessary to determine whether the drinking water is safe to drink. If you are on city water, this advisory does not pertain to you.

The Winnebago County Health Department is offering free bacteria testing for those residences who get their drinking water from private water wells that were submerged or surrounded by flood waters during the Sept. 5 flood.

Free-of-charge water testing kits are available at the Winnebago County Health Department Laboratory and at their nine Laboratory Outreach sites throughout the county.

Use only bottled or disinfected water for drinking, cooking, washing dishes, ice-making, tooth brushing and bathing until you are sure the water is safe to drink. Disinfecting water can be accomplished by boiling vigorously for 5 minutes prior to use. You can also disinfect your water by using an unscented bleach solution of 5 to 10 drops per gallon of water, mix, and let stand a minimum of 30 minutes before use. Do not exceed recommended amount of bleach.

An additional concern is that mold will grow in damp or humid environments. Potential health effects can occur, such as an allergic respiratory reaction, from exposure to airborne mold spores. The very young, the very old, those with compromised immune systems, those with allergies and other significant pre-existing health problems are at greatest risk. Eliminating standing water and keeping moisture levels below 60 percent will prevent mold from growing. Open windows, use fans and dehumidifiers to lower the moisture levels after pumping standing water. Mold cleanup can be done by residents who protect themselves by using an N-95 facemask and rubber gloves, using soap and water for impermeable surfaces, such as cement floors. Be sure to dampen surfaces before cleaning to avoid putting mold spores into the air. Any porous materials that have soaked in water for more than 48 hours will need to be disposed of. It is recommended that outside help be sought from an experienced contractor for larger mold contamination—approximately more than 10 square feet of mold contaminated surfaces. Further information can be obtained online at

The Winnebago County Health Department has opened a phone bank for residents inquiring about health questions as a result of the recent flooding. The phone bank will operate from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday – Friday during normal business hours until further notice. Contact the Health Department at 720-4242.

From the Sept. 13-19, 2006, issue

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