Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fecal Matters: No Water Contact Advisory Issued for Kitsap County

BEACH Program Update

Kitsap County Health Department has issued the following press release:

CONTACT: Shawn Ultican
March 10, 2011 (360) 337-5622

Heavy Rains Create Health Risks

Health Advisory Issued for Streams, Lakes, Marine Water and Shellfish Harvesting
Drinking Water Wells and Onsite Sewage Systems May Also Be Vulnerable

BREMERTON, WA - Due to widespread storm water runoff and a few sewer overflows caused by heavy rains over the last several days, the Kitsap County Health District has issued a “No Contact” advisory for lakes, streams, and marine waters throughout Kitsap County until March 17, 2011. The Health District is also advising the public to be aware of the following health risks associated with excessive surface runoff, flooding or sewage spills.

Avoid contact with murky or muddy streams or other water that appears to be affected by storm runoff.

Local shellfish should not be harvested or eaten after heavy rains as they may be
contaminated by stormwater runoff.

Assume flood water is contaminated. To stay healthy:
  • Wash your hands with soap and disinfected water before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, or handling contaminated items.

  • Discard all food that has come in contact with floodwater. Disinfect the can before opening any canned food.

  • If your power has gone out, keep food safe by using food that spoils rapidly first. Most foodborne diseases are caused by bacteria in raw or undercooked foods of animal origin such as meat, milk, eggs, or fish. Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed to conserve cold air or keep food cold with ice or dry ice.

If your drinking water well is flooded, assume that the water in your home is
Either use bottled water that has been stored less than six months in tightly sealed containers, or sanitize the potentially contaminated well water as follows:
  • If the water is clear, boil it for one minute to kill disease-causing bacteria and parasites, or add 1/8 teaspoon household bleach per gallon of water and let it sit for ½ hour.
  • If the water is cloudy, pour it through a coffee filter, paper towel, or cheesecloth, and then boil it for one minute. If you can’t boil it, filter it and add ¼ teaspoon of bleach per gallon, then let it sit for one hour.

A flooded well may require disinfection. Contact a professional well driller or the Health District for guidance on proper disinfection techniques.

Septic systems may fail if soil in the drainfield area becomes saturated. Overusing a septic system when the drainfield is flooded may cause a catastrophic failure, in which sewage backs up into the house or rises to the ground surface in your drainfield area. When soil has dried sufficiently, it’s probably safe to resume normal water use.

To protect your septic system and your property investment during times of heavy rains, minimize water use in the house as much as possible. Stay well below your sewage system’s maximum volume capacity - normally 120 gallons of water use per bedroom per day.
  • Try not to use the washing machine, cut back on toilet flushes, reduce bathing and showering, and run the dishwasher only when full.
  • Identify and repair all leaky plumbing fixtures - a running toilet or a leaky faucet can discharge many gallons of extra water each day to your drainfield.
  • Keep your septic tanks and risers in good repair – cracks and leaks can allow surface or ground water to damage your drainfield, potentially leading to expensive repairs.
  • Spread water use throughout the day and week to even out the flow to your drainfield.
  • Divert all outdoor runoff water and downspouts away from your septic system.
Additional information is available online at, or by calling the Health District at (360) 337-5235.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Surf the web before you surf the beach!

Jessica Bennett is the BEACH Program Data Manager.
She is available at 360-407-6159 or for questions.

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