Another less-common cause for boil-water notices is a lack of disinfectant in the water supply. This is often a result of a malfunction in the disinfection-delivery system.
“We don’t know if water has been affected by the malfunction, but the boil-water notice is again used as a precautionary measure,” Ross said.
Residents obviously have the final say as to whether they will boil water when an order is issued, but the Health Department can require regulated facilities, such as restaurants, to adhere to the order and refrain from using tap water for ice and drinking water unless water is boiled, she added.
A water supply contaminated by coliform or other materials can be especially harmful to children, the elderly and pregnant women, Ross noted.
Boil-water orders typically include instructions for people to help maintain a healthy water supply during the notice.
Ross often receives calls from the public asking for information on whether their home is included in a particular order, but it would be more advisable to call the municipality, she said, because the Health Department will not have the specific boundary for a given water supply.
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Public-health officials recommend that consumers take the following precautions during a boil-water notice:
▶ Water used for drinking, making ice, as an additive or mixer for all foods should be brought to a rolling boil for one minute prior to use.
▶ Another alternative is to drink bottled water, certified by the New York State Department of Health.
▶ Water used to rinse dishes should have 2 teaspoons of 5 percent liquid bleach per gallon of water for proper disinfection.
▶ Residents do not need to take special precautions with recipes in which water is normally boiled.
▶ Coffee and tea can be made safely if water is boiled during preparation.
▶ Water can safely be used for bathing and washing clothes.
▶ Water can be used for gardening as long as fruits and vegetables are washed with boiled water or water from an approved source before consumption.
▶ Household pets can continue drinking the water since they are usually more tolerant of bacteria.
▶ Individuals with symptoms of illness may wish to seek medical attention.