Christy Jarvis knows first-hand how bad the contamination from the flood water can be. She lost furniture and clothing in her Constance Bay apartment, as well as her children's two pet fish.

"We were throwing furniture after furniture and some of the clothes out. Anything that got into the water was basically contaminated," she said. 

Jarvis' bed and her grandfather's antique dresser were among the items that could not be salvaged from her basement apartment on Len Purcell Drive. Family and neighbours helped her throw some items into the back of a truck, but she couldn't move the fish tank.

When she came back the next day, the fish were dead. 

​"When I walked in the next day I could see kind of like an oil slick on the water surface, and it wasn't there the day before, so I thought this isn't good … that let me know there was something wrong in there."

City advises furniture be thrown out

Mailbox ottawa flood constance bay

A rusty mailbox leans precariously in the flood water surrounding a home in Ottawa's Constance Bay community. (Mike O'Shaughnessy/CBC)

City of Ottawa officials have been warning of the risk of contamination from flood waters. Ottawa city manager Steve Kanellakos said many household items will need to be thrown out. 

"The furniture that is in the house will be contaminated and they need to remove it. Some people have difficulty letting go of some of their possessions," he said, adding "we need to get things out of their house for their own safety".

The frames of good quality wood furniture can sometimes be saved if they are properly cleaned. But food, cosmetics, medicine, children's toys, carpets, mattresses and pillows should be disposed of. The city recommends people check with their insurance companies first before doing so. 

Mayor Jim Watson said the city has learned from the 2009 Kanata flood and will prioritize garbage pick up. 

"One of the things we learned from the Kanata experience when the flooding took place there, was one of the greatest frustrations for the public was a lot of old drywall, sopping wet couches and so on, were left on the side of the streets – in many instances for a couple of weeks at a time," Watson said. 

"We've got to do a better job and a faster job of getting that debris out of the community as quickly as possible."

With dumpsters deployed for garbage disposal, Watson expects the initial clean up will take three to four weeks.

Reconstruction, however, will take months.