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Food and Water Safety After a Flood

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Private Well Flooding

If you think your well has been affected by flooding waters, EPA recommends the following first steps:

  1. Stay away from the well pump while flooded to avoid electric shock.
  2. Do not drink or wash from the flooded well to avoid becoming sick
  3. Get assistance from a well or pump contractor to clean and turn on the pump.
  4. After the pump is turned back on, pump the well until the water runs clear to rid the well of flood water. If the water does not run clear, have your water tested.

CAUTION: Your well may not be a safe source of water for many months after a flood. The well can become contaminated with bacteria or other contaminants over time and cause short and long term health effects. Wastewater from malfunctioning septic tanks or chemicals seeping into the ground can contaminate the groundwater even after the water was tested and found to be safe. Repeated testing is strongly recommended to protect the safety of your drinking water.

You should follow similar procedures should any other disaster occur (ie: fire, snowstorm, etc.).

Additional resources

Drinking Water

During storm events, water purification systems may not be functioning fully. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Your state, local, or tribal health department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area. Here are some general rules concerning water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene.

Here are some general guidelines to keep you healthy and safe when water purification systems are not fully function. Keep these in mind when using water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene.

How to make your drinking water safe

  • Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. This will kill harmful organisms. Boiling water is the preferred way to kill harmful bacteria and parasites.
  • If boiling water is not an option, use bottled water and  make sure it came from a safe source. If you do not know that the water came from a safe source, you should boil or chemically treat it before you use it.
  • If you don’t have clean, safe, bottled water and if boiling is not possible, you often can make water safer to drink as a last resort by using a disinfectant, such as unscented household chlorine bleach, iodine, or chlorine dioxide tablets.
    These can kill most harmful organisms.
  • Use EPA's guidelines for disinfecting of small quantities of drinking water.
  • Home treatment devices that do not boil or chemically disinfect the water with acceptable disinfectants are not considered reliable alternatives to boiling the water.
  • Use only bottled, boiled, or treated water until your supply is tested and found safe.

Additional resources

Food Safety

Did you know that a flood, fire, national disaster, or the loss of power from high winds, snow, or ice could jeopardize the safety of your food? Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Fact facts: Keeping food safe during an emergency
  • Always keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below 40 °F and frozen food at or below 0 °F. This may be difficult when the power is out.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
  • A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.  Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time.
  • Never taste food to determine its safety!  You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.
  • Always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Watch a video on food safety during a power outage.

Want to know which specific foods to keep or throw out?

  • Use food charts to help you decide what to keep and what to toss.

Additional resources

Fact Sheets


What To Do When Your Water Source is Floodedfact sheet


Keeping Food Safe During an Emergencyfact sheet