For Immediate Release: July 13, 2023
Ben Truman │ Vermont Department of Health
802-316-2117 / 802-863-7281
Guidance for Vermont Flood Recovery Health and Safety
Health and safety information is at HealthVermont.gov/Flood
BURLINGTON, VT – As the State of Vermont continues its floodwater response and recovery efforts, the Department of Health is urging people to know how to keep healthy and safe outside and when returning to flooded homes.
Vermonters can find flood-related health guidance that includes information and resources in multiple languages at HealthVermont.gov/Flood.
If you’re in a flooded area and get your water from a well or spring, assume your water is contaminated.
Private water systems exposed to flood water can become contaminated with bacteria, microorganisms and other pollutants from sewage, heating oil, agricultural or industrial waste, chemicals, and other substances that can cause serious illness.
Do not use well water for drinking, cooking, baby formula, washing food or brushing teeth until you have it tested.
Free Drinking Water Test Kits are available for people whose private well or spring water systems have been impacted.
- Call the Public Health Laboratory at 802-338-4724 to order the appropriate test kits to check for bacteria, chemicals, or other contaminants.
Boiling your water for one minute kills bacteria and other organisms. But do not use or boil untested water that is cloudy, full sediments or smells like fuel or chemicals.
If you are on municipal water system (you receive a water bill), pay attention for boil water or do-not-drink orders. A list of impacted systems is at ANR.Vermont.gov/Flood.
Heavy rainfall and floods have led to dangerously fast-moving water. People and pets should stay out of any body of water after a flooding event. Even in normal conditions, it’s best to wait 48 hours after a storm to go in the water.
Conditions of high water and strong undercurrents can linger several days after a storm. Even strong swimmers are at high risk of injury or death. Many rivers, ponds, lakes and streams have been contaminated by disease-causing microorganisms, fuel, debris, and wastewater runoff.
Swimming in contaminated water can result in skin rashes, sore throats, diarrhea or more serious problems from bacterial infection. Unseen hazards and debris are also dangerous for recreational boating.
Pay attention to posted information at beaches and other swim areas.
Wait to return to your home until local officials say it is safe and standing water has receded.
Check for immediate dangers like downed power lines, gas leaks or damaged fuel tanks. If you smell natural gas (like rotten eggs) or hear hissing, leave the area immediately and call your local utility.
If electrical circuits and electrical equipment have gotten wet, or are in or near water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off.
Never use a generator or any gasoline-powered engine inside your home, basement or garage, or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent. Be sure it is vented to the outdoors.
Home Clean Up
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on safe clean-up practices: CDC.gov/disasters/cleanup/facts.html
Mold: If your home has been flooded and has been closed up for several days, assume your home has mold.
- Wear protective clothing, including masks (N-95) and gloves, when cleaning.
- Children, people with breathing problems and people with weakened immune systems should not help clean up after a flood.
- Dry your home out. Open doors and windows. You can use fans and dehumidifiers when electricity is safe.
- Have your home heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system checked before you turn it on to prevent spreading mold throughout the house.
- Clean moldy items that do not absorb water using soap and water (glass, plastic, marble, granite, ceramic tile, metal). Materials that easily absorb water (cushions, mattresses, drywall, carpet, insulation, and ceiling tiles) may need to be thrown away.
- Launder clothes and smaller fabrics and textiles. Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent – keep separate from uncontaminated items.
FOOD SAFETY – WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT
Food and crops that have come into direct contact with flood waters can make you sick. Don’t eat or drink anything that touched flood water.
Throw away contaminated food, and any perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages.
People with farms and gardens impacted by floods should wait at least 30 days before replanting to allow the soil to dry out and allow for any disease-causing bacteria in the soil to die off. More information is at Agriculture.Vermont.gov/Flood.
Sign up for VTALERT to get real-time alerts and notices for your health and safety
- Health Information – HealthVermont.gov/Flood
- Emergency Management – VEM.Vermont.gov/Flood
- Agriculture Information – Agriculture.Vermont.gov/Flood
- Environmental Information – ANR.Vermont.gov/Flood
- Mental Health: MentalHealth.Vermont.gov/Flood
- National Weather Service – Weather.gov/btv
- Road Conditions – NewEngland511.org/region/Vermont
- Vermont 211 – Dial 211 or online Vermont211.org
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About the Department of Health
We have been the state’s public health agency for more than 130 years, working every day to protect and promote the health of Vermonters.