The Center for Drinking Water Quality requires public water systems to issue boil water advisories to their customers when contamination that may cause illness has been found in the water. The presence of E. coli/fecal coliform bacteria indicate that water may be contaminated with human or animal waste. When this happens, water must be boiled to kill bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing organisms so that the water is safe to use.
When a public water system issues a boil water advisory, the Department of Health also issues a press release and includes information on its website about the situation.
Ongoing Boil Water Advisories
Recently Lifted Boil Water Orders
The presence of E. coli/fecal coliform bacteria in drinking water may cause short-term illness, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, fever, or other symptoms. These symptoms may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems. Call a doctor if an infant, elderly person, or someone with a weakened immune system develops these symptoms.
E. coli/fecal coliform bacteria can also cause more serious health problems. Call a doctor if anyone has any of the following symptoms:
- Fever over 101.5° F, measured orally
- Blood in the stool
- Prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)
- Signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up
- Diarrhea that lasts more than three days
It is possible to get Hepatitis A from drinking contaminated water. Hepatitis A is not fatal, and no specific medical treatment is required. If you are concerned, contact your doctor.
What You Should Do To Make Your Water Safe During a Boil Water Advisory
You do not need to get your water tested. In order to rectify the issue, the testing needs to take place within the larger distribution system, as it has been. Boil your tap water, at a rolling boil, for at least one minute for drinking, cooking, food preparation, making ice, brushing teeth, bathing children, and washing dishes. Infants and young children should not be bathed in this water because they may accidentally swallow it. Bottled water can also be used for these purposes.
Use boiled water for all preparation of food. If food is to be cooked in water, boil the water first for at least one minute. Household items and appliances that might have been contaminated by the water should be cleaned and sanitized.
Pets are not affected by contaminated water in the same way as humans; however, if you are concerned, out of an abundance of caution you can give your pet boiled or bottled water.
Water filters do not remove E.Coli/fecal coliform bacteria.
Non-Boiled Tap Water Can Be Used for:
- Washing clothes
- Dishwasher with sanitizer
- Bathing (adults and older children)
- Watering outside
- Cleaning surfaces
Boiled Water or Bottled Water Should Be Used for:
- Food preparation (including washing food)
- Bathing infants/toddlers
- Rinsing dishes done by hand
- Making ice cubes
- Infant formulas
- Brushing teeth
- Water filters do not remove the bacteria.
- Ice machines, vending machines, and soda dispensers that are directly connected to the water supply cannot be used.
- Alcohol does not kill the bacteria.
- Coffee machines directly connected to the water supply cannot be used unless they are able to heat water to boiling and hold it for at least one minute before making coffee.
Precautionary Boil Water Advisories
As with a boil water advisory, a precautionary boil water advisory is required by the Center for Drinking Water Quality and issued by public water systems to their customers when there is risk of contamination, but no illnesses have been reported and water samples may not have confirmed the presence of bacteria. For instance, if a water system loses power and then pressure below a certain point but is unable to disinfect the system immediately after fixing the problem, this becomes a risk of contamination that would require a precautionary boil water advisory.
If you receive a notice of a precautionary boil water advisory, you should follow the same instructions as for a boil water advisory.
What You Should Do Following Boil Water Advisories and Precautionary Boil Water Advisories
Once the boil water advisory or precautionary boil water advisory is lifted, you will receive news from your water provider. You are advised to "flush" your water following the lifting of the advisories to clear plumbing of potentially contaminated water. Flushing household and building water lines includes interior and exterior faucets; showers; water and ice dispensers; water treatment units, etc. Consumers should follow these recommendations for flushing:
- Faucets/Taps: Run your tap water, for both hot and cold water, for 10 minutes to ensure that any contamination that may be present is removed. If you have a single-lever faucet, set it to run the cold water first, then flush the hot water as well. Remember to use cold water for cooking and drinking instead of water from the hot water tank.
- Refrigerators with water-dispensers/ice-machines: Water dispensers/ice machines must be cleaned and sanitized before use. Follow the manufacturer’s suggested sanitizing procedures in the operator’s manual. Procedures should include flushing the water dispenser for 3-5 minutes to purge the line, running the ice machine for a minimum of 30 minutes (discard any ice that is made during this time), and washing and sanitizing the bin area. All external filtering devices associated with ice machines should be sanitized.
- Water Treatment Units/Filters: Replace any water treatment filter cartridges.
- Dishwashers: After flushing the hot water pipes and water heater, run the dishwasher empty one time.
- Medical/Health Care Devices: Discard any water used in humidifiers or other medical/healthcare devices and rinse them with clean water.
- Food and baby formula: Discard baby formula and other foods prepared with water on the day or days of the boil water advisory or precautionary boil water advisory.
If you are currently experiencing an emergency event contact your Public Water System. If you do not know your Public Water System, go to our News Advisory webpage or check your water bill or your landlord's water bill.
For general questions contact the Center for Drinking Water Quality at 401-222-6867, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm.