Drinking water safety reminders as flood waters recede across Western Washington

DOH News Release – For immediate release: November 19, 2021  (21-226)


OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) wants people in areas experiencing flooding to know what to do if flooding impacts wells or other water sources.


Floods such as those experienced in Western Washington this week can do more than cause property damage or wash away roads. Floodwater can contaminate well water with livestock waste, human sewage, and other contaminants that lead to illness when used for drinking, bathing, and other personal hygiene.


“Be safe, not sorry. If your well floods, you should assume your tap water is contaminated,” said Holly Myers, Director of the Office of Drinking Water.


If you are on a public water system, your water utility or local health department will notify you of any unsafe drinking water conditions in the system and provide directions on what you can do to prevent exposure.


If your well has been covered or surrounded by flood waters, your water can be made safe to drink by boiling, using disinfectants, or filtering.

  • Boil water at a rolling boil for one minute, and then let it cool before using in order to make water safer to drink by killing disease-causing organisms, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites.
  • Caution: Many chemical pollutants will not be removed by boiling. Cloudy water should be filtered before boiling. Filter cloudy water using coffee filters, paper towels, cheesecloth or a cotton plug in a funnel.
  • If boiling is not possible, you often can make water safe to drink by using a disinfectant, such as unscented household chlorine
  • Many portable water filters can remove disease-causing parasites from drinking water.


To learn more about water filters and treatments that can remove organisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites and ensure safer drinking water in emergency situations see the following resources:

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