Ottawa

Living in a flood zone? Don't use well water, health officials warn

Even as floodwaters across the region stabilize, health officials are warning residents — particularly those who get water from wells — to remain vigilant.

Boiling flood water is not enough to make it safe, health official says

Paul Roumeliotis, medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, is urging people to take precautions around floodwaters — particularly if they get their water from wells. (Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco/CBC)

Even as floodwaters across the region stabilize, health officials are warning people living in flood zones — particularly those who get water from wells — to remain vigilant.

Hundreds of homes have been damaged by the devastating floods that have washed through eastern Ontario and western Quebec, forcing residents and volunteers to spend days filling and loading up sandbags to protect their communities. 

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, the medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, told CBC Radio's In Town and Out that people living in flooded areas should avoid drinking water from wells — even if the waters haven't risen above the well's cap.

"Don't use it for washing, for bathing or anything. And don't use it for drinking as well, because we don't know what bacterial contaminants have gone into the floodwater," Roumeliotis said Saturday morning.

"This is a significant problem along most of the shoreline."

Doctor Paul Roumeliotis is the medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. 8:39

Here are the agency's top water safety tips.

  • When floodwaters get into a well, it's considered contaminated. Even boiling the water won't make it safe.
  • Don't use the water for washing anything or bathing. 
  • Make sure you test you well water once water levels recede. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit will be offering free testing, but not until the waters have fully receded. 
  • Stay protected when wading into floodwater to ensure no bacteria gets into any cuts to your skin. 
  • Wash your hands with clean water and soap after coming into contact with floodwater. 
  • Be careful around the currents along the flooded rivers, as they can be powerful and dangerous.
  • Make sure your tetanus vaccine is updated.

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