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Health Advisory on Residential Flooding - September 23, 2003



James City County Emergency Operations Center

  • Jody Puckett, EOC PIO
  • Tal Luton, EOC PIO


  • (757) 564-2154 PIO Desk
  • (757) 566-4315 Citizen Inquiry Line

This advisory is being issued to alert residents to health precautions they should take in the event of flooding, especially if the floodwaters may have been contaminated by sewage. Concentration is on safety, cleanup and disinfection procedures.


Do Not Allow Children to Play in Flood Waters

Flood water may contain various hazards, including sharp objects, open storm drains, ditches and potholes. Less than 6 inches of moving water can sweep even an adult off their feet. The water may have washed through sewers or contain other contaminants, which may pose a health risk. The water may also contain eggs, larvae or parasitic worms like the tapeworm, liver fluke, hookworm or other infectious microorganisms. Children who have been exposed to standing floodwaters should be bathed as soon as possible and watched for signs of infection or disease.


Take Precautions After the Flood

  • Be sure to wear protective clothing and some type of respiratory protection (such as masks rated N-95) prior to entering a dwelling that has been flooded.
  • Pump out wells and have the water tested. Never ingest well water that has not been tested, especially if the well head has been under flood waters.
  • Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before returning to service.
  • Rid premises of as much standing water as possible. Standing water breeds mosquitoes, which may carry disease.
  • Use only flashlights to examine buildings. Flammables may be inside.
  • Report broken utility lines to authorities.


Interior walls and furnishings

All flooded floor and wall surfaces should be washed with a solution of ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. Any household articles affected by floodwaters should be washed with the same solution. Carpeting, mattresses and upholstered furniture should be disposed of or cleaned and disinfected by a professional cleaner. Disposal is recommended in any cases where sewage contamination is suspected.


Possible Contamination of Swimming Pools

Swimming pools should not be used until the water is free of any debris and the water is clear. Keep the filters running until the water is clear and then superchlorinate (shock treat) the pool. Allow the chlorine level to drop between 1.0-3.0 ppm before re-entry.


Evidence of Sewage Contamination in Yards

If there is evidence of sewage contamination, yards should be disinfected with a liberal application of lime. Keep children and animals away from limed areas until the lime is no longer visible.


Food Spoilage and/or Immersion in Water

Food products that have been immersed in water should not be consumed. Canned goods can usually be salvaged unless they are dented, leaking, rusted or bulging. Remove label and mark contents on can with indelible ink. Wash the cans in a detergent solution, scrubbing well. Immerse containers for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of unscented chlorine bleach per quart of water. Allow to air-dry or use a disposable towel to dry.


Contact Information:

Peninsula Health District: Williamsburg Area - 253-4813.
Newport News, Lower York and Poquoson - 594-7340



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