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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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Flooding

Contact Us

  •  904-253-1270
  •  

    Fax

    904-253-2741
  •  

    Mailing Address

    900 University Boulevard North 

    Jacksonville, Florida 32211 

     

Moving Flood Water  

During flooding, the greatest threat comes from moving water. The deeper the moving water, the greater the threat. People should avoid driving in moving water, regardless of the size of the vehicle.

Pooling Flood Water 

Heavy rain causes flood waters to rise and pool on streets and throughout neighborhoods. In these situations, be aware of the following:

  • Road surfaces become disguised and drivers can unknowingly steer into a deep body of water, such as a canal or pond.
  • Electricity from streetlights and power poles may be present in standing water, causing a deadly shock to anyone coming in contact with it.
  • Children playing in contaminated standing water can become sick or be bitten by snakes or floating insects.
  • People coming into contact with floodwaters should thoroughly wash and rinse any exposed body parts with soap and disinfected water.

Contaminated Water Supply  

Drinking contaminated water may cause illness. Water in a hurricane-affected area may not be safe to drink. Listen to local announcements on safety of the water supply.
If the public water system lost pressure, a boil water notice will likely be issued for your area.
People in these areas should take precautions to avoid consuming contaminated water. If your well is in a flooded area, your water may contain disease-causing bacteria and may not be safe to drink.

DOH recommends one of the following:

  • Boil water for at least 1 minute before using it for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth, or washing dishes.
  • Disinfect water by adding 8 drops (about 1/8 tsp – this would form a puddle about the size of a dime) of unscented household bleach per gallon of water, and then let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the procedure. Use a container that has a cap or cover for disinfecting and storing water to be used for drinking. This will prevent contamination.
  • Use only bottled water, especially for mixing baby formula.
  • After the flooding subsides:
  • Disinfect your well using the steps provided by your local health department, or located on the Department of Health’s website at http://www.flhealth.gov/environment/water/manual/floodinf.htm.
  • If available, have your water tested through your county health department or by a laboratory certified by the state to perform a drinking water analysis.

Contaminated Food  

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwaters.
  • Discard any food without a waterproof container if there is any chance it has come into contact with floodwaters.
  • Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the labels thoroughly, wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution consisting of 1/4 cup of unscented household bleach per gallon of water for clean surfaces.
  • Re-label your cans, including the expiration date, with a marker. Food containers with screw-caps, snap lids and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come in contact with floodwaters, because they cannot be disinfected.

Contaminated Items  

  • Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers. There is no way to safely clean them if they have come in contact with contaminated floodwaters.
  • Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils with soap and hot water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1/4 cup of household bleach per gallon of water.

Hygiene  

  • Basic hygiene is very important during a natural disaster. Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected and cooled. Hands should be washed before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, after handling uncooked food, after playing with a pet, after handling garbage, after tending to someone who is sick or injured, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after helping in flood cleanup activities, and after handling items contaminated with flood water or sewage.

What to Do if Your Well is Flooded 

Heavy rainfall from a tropical storm or hurricane may have made your well water unsafe. If you are unsure about the impact of flooding on your well water, use bottled water, boil or disinfect all the water you use for drinking, making beverages or ice, cooking, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, and washing areas of the skin that have been cut or injured.

Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute and cool before use. Common unscented household bleach (4 to 6 percent active ingredient) can be used effectively as a chlorine disinfectant. Disinfect the water by adding 8 drops (about 1/8 teaspoon) of unscented household bleach per gallon of water, and then let it stand for 30 minutes. Repeat the procedure if the water is still cloudy.

If your well has been flooded, please call the Florida Department of Health in Duval County’s Environmental Health Program at (904) 253-1282 for information on how to sample your water and where to bring the sample for bacterial testing.  If the test reveals bacteria, the well and water system need to be disinfected.

It is important to disinfect both well and plumbing water with unscented household bleach to make sure all infectious organisms are destroyed. If you have water treatment devices, remove all membranes, cartridges, and filters and replace them after the chlorination process is completed. The amount of chlorine determines the length of time you allow the bleach to remain in your system.

DOH recommends the following steps to disinfect a contaminated well:

  • If the water is discolored before adding the bleach, run the water until it is clear for up to 10 minutes.
  • Turn off and then drain your hot water heater; bleach is not effective in water above 105 degrees.
  • Remove and replace charcoal filters after the disinfecting process is completed.
  • To avoid adding contamination to the well during disinfection, clean the work area around the top of the well. Then remove grease and mineral deposits from accessible parts of the well head and flush the outside surfaces with 1/2 cup of unscented household bleach in 5 gallons of water.
  • Turn off the pump. Remove the cap or well plug on the rubber seal. There are many types of well caps and plugs. If you have questions, you should contact a licensed well driller. If you have a submersible pump, you may also want to contact a licensed well driller for advice on disinfection processes.
  • Check the bleach chart below and pour the recommended amount of unscented bleach (4 to 6 percent active ingredient) solution into the well. Try to coat the sides of the casing as you pour. If you get bleach on the pump or wiring, flush it thoroughly with fresh water to prevent later corrosion.

Well Chart

  • Re-cap or plug the well opening and wait 30 minutes.
  • Turn on and, if needed, re-prime the pump. Open all of the faucets on the system one at a time. Allow the water to run until there is a noticeable smell of bleach. You may also want to flush the toilets. If you have outside faucets, you may want to direct the water away from sensitive plants. If you cannot detect a bleach odor, repeat the well disinfecting process.
  • Turn off all of the faucets and allow the bleach to remain in the plumbing system for at least 8 hours.
  • Backwash water softeners, sand filters, and iron removal filters with bleach water.
  • Again, open all the faucets and run the water until there is no bleach smell—for up to 15 minutes.

After disinfecting your well, the water needs to be tested to verify that it is safe to drink. Although unscented household bleach is effective against microorganisms, it will not remove chemical contamination that may have gotten into your well. Contact your county health department for sampling instructions to get your water tested.

For more information, please contact us at 904-253-1270 or visit www.flhealth.gov or www.FloridaDisaster.org