Tuesday, March 4, 1997
The drinking water
Untreated waste may be
contaminating supply

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Water is plentiful during a flood, but be careful before you drink any.

While public water systems along the Ohio River have not reported any purity problems, contamination is possible in the event of a pipe break, or in buildings or wells inundated by flood water.

Many sewage plants are passing untreated waste directly into the Ohio River and streams, something that happens during uncommonly heavy downpours when the flow overwhelms the combined sanitary and storm sewers in some areas.

This puts additional burdens on drinking water treatment. But inland, where water supplies often come from wells, the situation can be more hazardous.

Torrential rains that rushed through farm fields and manure lots can carry dangerous bacteria, viruses, parasites and other microbes.

''This is why you hear a lot of municipal suppliers put out 'boil advisories' during times like this,'' said M. Wilson Tabor, associate professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Tate Monroe Water Association, which serves southern Clermont County, issued a boil advisory Monday on the advice of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Its wells, although sealed and not contaminated, were under water.

Contaminated drinking water is most likely to cause stomach upset, diarrhea, vomiting and rashes, said Dr. Mohammad Alam, environmental director for the Cincinnati Health Department.

If a boil advisory is issued, boil water at least three to five minutes to kill germs (10 minutes is ideal).

Continue boiling water until the supplier gives the OK to drink or use water again. To be extra safe, add a few drops of unscented chlorine bleach to water and allow it to stand several minutes before boiling.

Ben L. Kaufman contributed.

Keeping clean

Health experts offer these tips:

Use bottled water.

Flood-affected water from private wells should be boiled until the well is inspected and cleared by the local health department. This is especially true of open wells.

Do not use food or medicine touched by flood water. Discard food, including canned goods.

Discard soft and porous items that may have absorbed flood water - wooden utensils and cutting boards, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.

During cleanup, wear protective gloves, use germ-fighting soaps and avoid touching eyes, mouth or open cuts with anything that has come in contact with flood water. Make a disinfectant solution by adding 1/2-cup bleach to one gallon of water.

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Entire contents Copyright (c) 1997 by The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper.