A city or water provider can issue a boil order as a result of routine water tests indicating the presence of E.coli bacteria.
Fecal colony forming (coliform) bacteria are a large family of potentially harmful bacteria. Escherichia coli, also know as E.coli is an anaerobic gram-negative bacterium that is found in the intestine of mammals like humans and other furry animals.
There are many strains of E.coli, and not all are harmful. However, certain strains of E.coli are dangerous (pathogenic), and are associated with gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections and neonatal meningitis. Symptoms of E.coli-related illness include: severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, fever, and respiratory distress.
Since they don’t know exactly which strain of E.Coli is in the water and waiting to speciate would be irresponsible, an immediate boil order is the most sensible action to take.
Resolution of the problem will involve flushing water distribution laterals, shock-chlorination and possibly replacement of contaminated piping and/or fittings. The water provider will also be working with the State DEQ and County Health Department to make sure that positive causal factors are identified, and that the latest best practices are followed. Every boil order situation is different, making it impossible to predict how long the boil order will actually remain in effect. It will not be lifted until testing shows that the water meets public health standards. Boil water advisories or boil water orders are lifted when the water is considered safe and no longer poses a threat to public health.
If your water provider has issued a Boil Order, here is some very important information:
DO NOT DRINK THE WATER WITHOUT BOILING IT FIRST
Bring water to boil, keep it boiling for 60 seconds, and then allow it to cool before drinking.
DO NOT LET WATER GET INTO YOUR EYES OR MOUTH IN THE SHOWER
Babies, older persons, and those with compromised immune systems should not bathe in the water
DO NOT BRUSH YOUR TEETH WITH TAP WATER
Disinfect your toothbrush and then only use bottled water
DO NOT USE ICE FROM YOUR ICE-MAKER
Throw out ice in the ice bin and turn the ice-maker off
DO NOT DRINK WATER FROM YOUR REFRIGERATOR
Turn off the water supply to your fridge and discard your fridge filter
DO NOT DRINK WATER FROM YOUR WATER FILTER
Carbon filters, sediment filters, and even Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems are not suitable for removing bacteria. Technologies like Ultraviolet (UV) and Ultrafiltration (UF) are effective at addressing E.coli, but only if the system is tested and certified to do so.
USE THE DISINFECTION/STERILIZE CYCLE ON YOUR DISHWASHER
If you hand-wash, immerse the clean dishes in water with bleach added (1 tsp. per Gallon) and let them stay in the bleached water for at least 1 minute.
USE HOT/HOT CYCLES ON YOUR CLOTHES WASHER
The hotter the better, and after each load, run an empty load (or load of whites) with a cup-full of bleach to minimize contamination
TURN OFF YOUR CENTRAL HUMIDIFIER
Throw away humidifier evaporative pads and turn the water off to the humidifier
DISINFECT WATER BEING USED IN YOUR PORTABLE HUMIDIFIER
Add 4 Tsp. of Hydrogen peroxide per Gallon of water
DO NOT WASH YOU HANDS WITH THE WATER
Use bottled water or hand sanitizer
DO NOT LET YOUR PETS DRINK THE WATER
Give them bottled water and be sure to clean and disinfect their water bowl
BYPASS YOUR WATER SOFTENER
This will help avoid further contamination
AFTER THE BOIL ORDER IS LIFTED
Once the boil-order has been lifted, be sure to flush and disinfect the household plumbing. Then disinfect your dishwasher and clothes washer along with your water heater, humidifier, ice-maker, and any other water-using appliances.
If you have a water softener, conditioner, salt-free system, or whole-house filter, disinfect it according to manufacturer’s instructions.
If you have a drinking filter, throw away the filter, sanitize according to manufacturer’s instructions, and install new cartridge/s.
Part of the procedure for ensuring your safety is to flush and clean certain piping, as well as introducing large amounts of chlorine into the city’s plumbing system. It’s always wise to wait a few days before drinking the unfiltered tap water again to avoid chlorine disinfection byproducts and organic material.