What is a Boil Advisory?
A boil-water advisory is issued by water quality authorities to users of a water supply system when it is or could be contaminated by pathogens, or when there is a system failure shown by the loss of pressure. While a loss of pressure does not mean a water source has been contaminated, it does mean there is a possibility from pathogen intrusions through a leak. A boil water advisory should always be taken seriously as consuming any contaminated water could lead to illness. People at higher risk of becoming ill include the elderly, infants, young children or those with compromised immune systems.
Using Boiled Water
During a boil water advisory, boiled water should be used for tasks such as food prep, cooking, drinking, making ice and brushing teeth. Bringing water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute will kill any pathogen and virus contamination. You can then store the water in a clean, covered container for later use. If you do not have an option to boil water, you can kill the bacteria by mixing 1/8 teaspoon of common bleach (unscented, with no added dyes or perfumes) into 1 gallon of water. Let the bleach and water solution sit for 30 minutes before drinking or cooking.
Disinfected water must be stored in a clean, covered container. To ensure that storage containers are clean, make a sanitizing solution of 1 teaspoon bleach in 1 quart of water. Pour the solution inside the container and shake well entirely coating the inside. Let sit for at least 30 seconds. Once the solution has rested, the container can be emptied and air dried or rinsed with disinfected water.
Food Prep, Cooking and Drinking
Uncooked food, beverages or ice made with tap water from the day of the advisory should be thrown away. Do not wash ready-to-eat items with tap water during the advisory. If food must be washed, use only disinfected, freshly boiled and cooled, or bottled water. To make infant’s formula, it is recommended to only use bottled water or water from a safe source. Hand wash and rinse dishes in disinfected water. Dishwashers do not heat the water high enough to kill bacteria, so they should not be used during the advisory. Humans should only drink boiled, disinfected or bottled water. Pets should be given boiled (then cooled) or bottled water.
Laundry and Bathing
Unless a “do not use” notification has been issued, it is acceptable to do laundry with tap water as long as the clothes are completely dry before they are worn. However; contaminated water has the potential to change clothing colors, especially white fabrics. Bathing is also acceptable. Adults and older children may take quick showers as long as water does not enter the body in any way. Babies and small children should be bathed in boiled or bottled water due to lower immune systems.
Flushing Water Lines
When a boil water advisory is lifted, normal water usage can be resumed. If cloudy water is experienced, run all faucets one at a time until the water is clear. To flush ice makers, make 3 batches of ice and discard them. The 4th batch of ice should be safe for consumption. Refrigerator filters should also be changed, and water softeners can be run through a regeneration cycle depending on the manufacturer’s guidelines.