Hidden dangers may lurk in standing flood waters


Staff writer

The worst of last week’s record-breaking storm may be over, but lingering flood waters could still pose a risk to Central Kitsap residents.

Fearing the potential for waterborne illnesses, the Kitsap County Health District issued a “no contact” order earlier this week for all flood waters. People with flooded drinking wells have been advised to boil their drinking water at least until they can have their water tested.

“Wells that get submerged should be considered contaminated,” said John Kiess, drinking water program manager for the health district.

The public water supply has not been contaminated, but anyone who has come into contact with flood waters stands the risk of contracting some form of illness.

Several wells were exposed to raw sewage when Lift Station 17 on Central Valley Road spilled about 100,000 gallons of sewage into Dyes Inlet earlier this week. The Health District has already gone door-to-door to the affected residences to issue warnings.

Even if someone is exposed to contaminated water, staying healthy is relatively simple.

“Wash your hands frequently (if you’re continually exposed to flood waters),” Whitford said. “That’s the main road of how things get into the mouth.”

The easiest way to avoid contaminated water is to purchase bottled water, Whitford said. If that’s not possible, people should boil their water for at least three minutes to disinfect it, or use 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water and let it sit for a half hour.

“I would suggest the same for watering pets,” he added.

Using bleach should be a last resort, and if it is used, make sure it’s the unscented type.

“The chemicals they use to produce the scent are ones you don’t want to ingest,” Whitford said.

People also should be diligent when preparing food. Canned goods that have been exposed to flood waters can still be consumed, but should be disinfected first. Whitford suggested soaking cans in the same bleach solution as drinking water for about a half hour.

If people do become sick from flood waters, there isn’t a need to panic, he added.

“They just need to be seen by their doctor and evaluated,” Whitford said.

Stagnant flood waters aren’t the only concern; shellfish harvesters also should be on alert.

“Shellfish are filter-feeders,” Whitford said, and they concentrate toxins and bacteria in their digestive systems. “Our recommendation would be to not harvest at all.”

Waters in Dyes Inlet could clear out by Tuesday, but health district officials won’t be hasty in lifting their warning. Whitford said the warning will remain indefinitely and could last as long as a few weeks.

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