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Boil Water Advisories FAQs

Precautionary Boil Water Advisories: Frequently Asked Questions

Why are Precautionary Boil Water Advisories issued?

Precautionary Boil Water Advisories may be issued because of water system loss of power, loss of water pressure, a water main (pipe) break or other unforeseen emergency. Water pressure keeps pollutants from entering the underground pipes that bring drinking water to your house or business. When the pressure is lost, it is possible that contaminants could seep into the pipes.

The advisory does not mean that the water is contaminated. It means it is possible for contaminants to enter the pipes and affect drinking water. Until required bacteriological testing is completed, we recommend, as a precaution, boiling tap water before consuming it to kill any potential contaminants, or using bottled water. To see a complete list of Boil Water Advisories (notice dates and rescinding dates), Click here.

What if I accidentally drank tap water before I learned about the Precautionary Boil Water Advisory?

If this happens, don’t panic. The chances of becoming ill are slim. See your doctor if you experience diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or abdominal cramps.

How long should water be boiled?

Vigorous boiling for at least one full minute is the safest and most effective method of disinfection. Fill a pot with cold water and start timing when steady streams of bubbles pop from the bottom of the pot. Water must be adequately cooled before it can be used for washing or brushing teeth. Store the boiled water in clean, covered containers. Using bottled water is also an option. To see a complete list of Boil Water Advisories (notice dates and rescinding dates), Click here.

How does boiling water make it safe to drink?

Boiling water purifies it because disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites will be destroyed by the heat. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, boiling is considered the most effective and the safest method of water disinfection.

Should I use bottled water?

When bottled water is available, it is a good alternative to boiling water.

Can I wash my hands in tap water during the advisory period?

Use tap water and soap for hand washing and basic hygiene, but if you are washing your hands to prepare food, use bottled or boiled water.

What about brushing teeth?

Use bottled or boiled water to brush teeth.

Can I take a shower?

Yes. Though the risk of illness is minimal, individuals who have recent surgical wounds, are immunosuppressed, or have a chronic illness may want to consider using bottled or boiled water for cleansing until the advisory is lifted.

What about washing dishes?

Hand-washing dishes: Wash with hot soapy water, then use boiled water to rinse.

Dishwasher: If the hot water reaches at least 170 degrees or the dishwasher has a sanitizing cycle and includes a full dry cycle, this will be sufficient.

Can I wash food with tap water?

Fruits, vegetables and other foods should be washed with bottled or boiled water only.

Can I use tap water for making coffee, tea, lemonade, baby formula, frozen juice, or other beverages?

No. Water intended for drinking must be boiled before using it to make beverages, or use bottled water.

Can I use my ice maker during the advisory?

Ice already in the freezer when the water pressure drops and before the Precautionary Boil Water Advisory is issued is safe. When the notice is issued, turn off your ice maker. When the advisory is lifted, if no contamination has been found, then you do not need to flush your ice maker before using it.

Does a water filter protect me?

Water filters in refrigerators and pitchers do not remove bacteria. For under-sink filters, read the manual. If in doubt, boil.

Is it safe to give water to pets?

Many pets, such as dogs, are susceptible to the same diseases as humans. Provide them with bottled or boiled water.

If the street next to my street is under a Precautionary Boil Water Advisory, will the same precautions apply to me?

No, the advisory is issued only to those residences and businesses whose water has the chance of contamination.

When will the Precautionary Boil Water Advisory be lifted?

After the water system is repaired, and the pressure is restored in the pipes to your home or business, the Precautionary Boil Water Advisory will remain in effect while bacteriological tests are conducted to assure the safety of the water. The notice will be lifted (rescinded) only after the required testing proves the water is safe to drink. To see a complete list of Boil Water Advisories (notice dates and rescinding dates), Click here.

How is the public notified?

Typically, news is provided directly to the customers with door hangers and also posted on the County website and the @unioncountyPW Twitter page.

However, there are rare instances when a large-scale Boil Water Advisory is issued. In these cases, we will notify customers through an emergency phone call, as well as sending information to local media and postings on the County’s social media pages. To see a complete list of Boil Water Advisories (notice dates and rescinding dates), Click here.

If you need assistance, please call our Customer Service hotline at 704-296-4210.