What to do if Water is Contaminated

During weather emergencies, tune in for advisories and alerts about public water safety. Don't drink water from a private well if if the property is flooded until you restore and test your well. Whether you are on public water or a private well, bottled water is best for drinking and preparing food. If needed, you can follow steps to disinfect water at the tap before using it for drinking and preparing food.

Public Water: Pay Attention to Advisories and Notices

Your health department will issue advisories if the public water supply serving your home is not safe for drinking or preparing food. Follow any instructions provided. Check social media or listen to your local radio station for alerts and updates about your water service and information about available bottled or other sources of water. If needed, disinfect your tap water.

If your area was on a boil water notice and you are notified that you no longer need to boil your water, run your water through the pipes to flush your system with clean water. See Boil Water Notices – Checklist for Residents and Homeowners

Private Wells

If your well has been covered with floodwaters, your drinking water could be contaminated. Use bottled water or follow the advice to disinfect any water used for drinking and preparing food until your private well is restored. After floodwaters recede, water in your well might still not be safe to use for drinking or preparing food because of well contamination. Follow steps for restoring and testing your private well after the emergency and before using it for drinking and cooking without disinfecting water at the tap.

Well Contamination with Gas, Oil or Chemicals

Contact your health department or the Department of Environmental Conservation Spill Hotline at 800-457-7362.

Disinfecting Tap Water

Bottled water is the best choice for drinking and preparing food if your water is contaminated. If you need to use water you are uncertain about, disinfect it before using it for drinking or preparing food. Before disinfecting, fill a container with water and let suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain the untreated water through layers of paper towels, clean cloths, or paper coffee filters.

Preferred Method: Boiling

  • Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute. Let it cool before drinking.
  • Improve the taste by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. Water tastes better if you put oxygen back into it.

Alternate Method Method: Liquid Unscented Chlorine Bleach

If boiling is not possible

  • Add 1/8 of a teaspoon (8 drops) of liquid unscented chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not taste and smell of chlorine at that point, add another 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of bleach and let stand for another 15 minutes.