Frequently Asked Questions about Boil Orders
This document is to provide guidance to consumers of a public water system under a Boil Order.
Why must I boil my water?
A Boil Order has been issued to your water system because repairs have been made to the water system that may have possibly caused bacterial contamination OR recent testing has shown the presence of organisms that could cause illness (e.g., fecal or E. coli bacteria.
How can I make my water safe?
Boiling the water is the best way to ensure that it is free of illnesscausing organisms. Bring water to a rolling boil for a minimum of 3-5 minutes. When it cools, refrigerate the water in clean containers. (A pinch of salt per quart may improve the rather "flat" taste of boiled water.) If you do not want to boil your water, you can disinfect it by adding 1/8 teaspoon of bleach (common household bleach containing 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) per gallon of water. Do not use bleach containing perfume, dyes, or other additives.
Can I use bottled water?
Buying bottled water may be a feasible alternative to boiling water. Bottled water operations are routinely inspected, and samples are periodically analyzed to ensure they meet health standards.
Can I wash my hands using tap water?
It is recommended that you wash your hands using soap and either bottled water or preboiled water. An alcoholbased hand sanitizer may also be used.
Can my family take showers or baths using tap water?
The risk of bathing or showering in tap water is uncertain and so should be avoided, particularly by people with open wounds or who are immunocompromised. For those people who choose to shower or bathe in the tap water, minimize the time spent in the water and be sure to keep your eyes and mouth closed. Babies and young children should not bathe or shower in tap water because they often swallow some water accidentally.
Can I wash dishes using tap water?
You may use a dishwasher if it has a sanitizing cycle. If it does not have a sanitizing cycle, or you are not sure if it does, you may hand wash dishes and utensils by following these steps: Wash the dishes as you normally would. As a final step, immerse the dishes for at least one minute in lukewarm water to which a teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water has been added. Allow the dishes to completely air dry.
Can I use my coffee maker, ice machine, water or soda dispenser?
None of these devices should be used if they are directly connected to your water supply. Also, filters are unacceptable for removing bacteria. Once you have been notified that the Boil Order has been lifted, these devices should be cleaned and sanitized according to the operator's manual for the device.
Can I give my pets tap water?
Although pets are not normally affected by the same diseases as humans, caution suggests giving pets preboiled or bottled water.
Health Related Information
Who can be affected?
Anyone who ingests contaminated water may become ill. Infants, young children, the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems are more at risk of illness.
What are the symptoms of waterborne illness?
Disease symptoms may include diarrhea, cramps, nausea and possible jaundice and associated headaches and fatigue. Symptoms may appear as early as a few hours to several days after infection and may last more than two weeks. These symptoms, however, are not just associated with disease causing organisms in drinking water; they may also be caused by a number of other factors. If you are ill with these symptoms, contact your health care provider.
What if I drank water already?
There is nothing you can do about the exposure you have already received. If you become ill, contact your health care provider. Follow the above recommendations about using your water until you are told the water is safe again.
How long will the Boil Order remain in effect?
Each Boil Order situation is different making it impossible to predict how long the Boil Order will remain in effect. It will not be lifted until testing shows that the water meets public health standards. The EPA approved laboratory will notify the water system when the Boil Order can be lifted, and the water system, in turn, will notify you.
What do I need to do after the boil order is lifted?
Once the boil order is lifted the following steps should be taken.·
A note about E. coli bacteria:
E. coli is a subgroup of the fecal coliform bacteria group. There are many strains of E. coli, most of which are harmless, but some strains can cause illness. E. coli outbreaks receive much media coverage. Most outbreaks have been related to food contamination (not water) caused by a specific strain of E. coli known as E. coli O157:H7. When a drinking water sample is reported as "E. coli positive," it does not mean that this specific strain is present and in fact, it is probably not present. However, it does indicate recent fecal contamination. Boiling or treating contaminated drinking water with a disinfectant destroys all forms of E. coli, including O157:H7.
Websites with additional information on E. coli bacteria information: