Public Water Emergency Information for Consumers

Do Not Drink Order for PFAS in Drinking Water

The Rhode Island interim standard for a group of chemicals called per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) in drinking water is 20 parts per trillion (ppt). Public water systems are required to send do not drink notices to consumers when water sample results show PFAS at greater than 70 ppt.

Long-term health effects could potentially result from consuming PFAS. Exposure to PFAS has been linked with a variety of health effects, including higher cholesterol levels, lower infant birth weights, weakened immune response, and increased risk of some cancers. Learn more about PFAS at

Ongoing PFAS Do Not Drink Notices

Recently Lifted PFAS Do Not Drink Orders

Ladd Center: The Do Not Drink order was lifted after the Ladd Center water system turned off the well (Well #2) with PFAS greater than 70 ppt. The water system is supplying water from a well (Well #3) with lower levels of PFAS (30 ppt). The level of PFAS is above the 20 ppt state standard, and the Ladd Center is still required to issue public notice about its PFAS levels. As long as Well #2 remains turned off or test results show PFAS levels below 70 ppt, there will not be a Do Not Drink order for this water system.

Exeter Job Corps: The Do Not Drink order was lifted at the Exeter Job Corps water system when test results showed the PFAS concentration was below 70 ppt (40 ppt). The level of PFAS is above the 20 ppt state standard, and Exeter Job Corps is still required to issue public notice about its PFAS levels. The Exeter Job Corps water system receives drinking water directly from the Ladd Center water system. When the Ladd Center turned off Well #2, the Ladd Center also had lower levels of PFAS in the water.  

What You Should Do

You can take the following actions when a do not drink order has been issued for your water system due to PFAS.

  • Do not drink the water.
  • Do not boil your water. Boiling water will concentrate (increase the level of) these chemicals in the boiled water. 
  • Reduce your risk of exposure to these chemicals by using bottled water or other licensed drinking water that has been tested for these chemicals. Bottled water companies are not required by the Food and Drug Administration to test for PFAS, but many do. Many bottled water companies use treatment that removes PFAS. Contact bottled water manufacturers to ask about PFAS results in bottled water prior to using bottled water to replace drinking water with high PFAS levels.
  • Whenever possible, water with low levels of PFAS should be used for drinking, preparing food, cooking, brushing teeth, and any activity that might result in swallowing water.
  • Parents who use formula for infants may consider using a formula that does not require adding water.
  • Bathing or Swimming: Routine showering, bathing, or swimming are not a major source of exposure to PFAS. As a precaution, you may consider shorter showers or baths, especially for children who may swallow water while playing in the bath, or for people with skin conditions (rashes, cuts, etc.)
  • Washing Dishes and Clothes: Doing laundry or washing dishes are also not a major source of exposure to PFAS. If washing dishes by hand, you can minimize exposure by wearing rubber gloves, especially if you have a rash or cuts on your hands.
  • Using a Humidifier: If you use a humidifier, only use water from a safe source.

You should also always refer to the public notice issued by your public water system for the latest guidance. If you have not received the public notice, you can check your public water system’s website or contact them directly for a copy.

For general questions, contact the Center for Drinking Water Quality at 401-222-6867, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Boil Water Orders

The Center for Drinking Water Quality requires  public water systems to issue boil water notices 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 notice, the Department of Health also issues a press release and includes information on its website about the situation.

Ongoing Boil Water Notices

Recently Lifted Boil Water Orders

Health Risks

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 Notice

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
  • Toilets

Boiled Water or Bottled Water Should Be Used for:

  • Food preparation (including washing food)
  • Bathing infants/toddlers
  • Drinking
  • 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 Notices

As with a boil water notice, a precautionary boil water notice 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 notice.

If you receive a precautionary boil water notice, you should follow the same instructions as for a boil water notice.

What You Should Do Following Boil Water Notices and Precautionary Boil Water Notices

Once the boil water notice or precautionary boil water notice is lifted, you will receive news from your water provider. You are advised to "flush" your water following the lifting of the notice 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 notice or precautionary boil water notice.

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 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.