Be careful with water supplies and cleanup during flood season (09/04/30)

NB 582

April 30, 2009

FREDERICTON (CNB) - New Brunswickers need to be careful with their drinking water and food supplies when cleaning up during and following flooding in their home and area, said Dr. Eilish Cleary, chief medical officer of health.

"During and following a flood, affected residents need to take the precautions necessary to reduce possible risks to their health and that of their family," Cleary said.

Beware of food contamination

To avoid the health hazards of food contamination, you should discard all perishable goods, vacuum-packed foods and any other foods contaminated by flooding. Home preserves, meats, fish or dairy products should also be discarded if they have been contaminated.

You also need to be careful of consuming frozen or refrigerated foods if your home has been without electrical power for any extended period.

"One commonly accepted rule of thumb is that if there are still ice crystals in frozen food, it is safe to be re-frozen or thawed properly and consumed," said Cleary. "However, when in doubt, throw it out."

Cooking and eating utensils should be cleaned of all deposits and sanitized. Utensils used for infant feeding should be disinfected according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Water affected by flooding

Private water supplies contaminated by flooding should not be used while the wellhead is flooded. Once flood waters have receded, the well should be disinfected and water quality should be tested prior to use.

You may access testing services for total coliforms and E. coli through the Department of Health at specific Service New Brunswick locations. You may also choose the services of a private, accredited laboratory.

Until test results indicate that your water supply is safe, water for drinking and personal use should be brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute, then stored in clean, covered containers. Alternatively, water may be obtained from a secure and safe supply.

Private water supplies may also be affected by chemicals such as furnace oil, gasoline or agricultural chemicals.

Should you think that your well has been contaminated by such chemicals, you should not use water from there for any domestic purpose whatsoever - even if it has been boiled - before it is deemed safe by health officials.

For more information regarding the health effects relating to flooding or well disinfection procedures, you should contact one of the regional Health Protection Branch offices listed in the blue pages of the telephone book or visit

More information is available on the Department of Health website, or the Department of Public Safety's New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization (NB-EMO) website,


MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Cumby, communications, Department of Health, 506-457-3522.