Flood Recovery Precautions

The Chautauqua County Department of Health & Human Services cautions that recovering from a flood involves taking many special precautions, including the following:

Contaminated Water Supply

Drinking contaminated water may cause illness. If you get your water from a public water system like a city or village, listen to local announcements on safety of the water supply. If necessary, a boil water notice will be issued for your area.

If you have your own well and it is located in an area that was flooded, your water may contain disease-causing organisms and may not be safe to drink.

For private wells that have been flooded, one of the following is recommended:

  • Boil water for at least one minute before using it for drinking, washing, cooking, etc.
  • Disinfect water by adding 8 drops (about 1/8 tsp – this would form a puddle about the size of a dime) of unscented household bleach per gallon of water, and then let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the procedure; or
  • Use only bottled water, especially for mixing baby formula.

After the flooding subsides:

Contaminated Surface Water

Several of the wastewater treatment plants in the northern area of the County discharged partially treated sewage into tributaries of Lake Erie or the Lake itself.

  • Assume that all flood water contains untreated sewage.
  • Stay out of standing water and puddles.
  • Stay out of creeks and lakes including Lake Erie until the Beach Closure website indicates that it is safe to swim. http://www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/246/Beach-Closings
  • Note that creeks are not tested and therefore are never considered safe for swimming.

Contaminated Food

Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwaters. Discard any food without a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with floodwaters. Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the labels thoroughly, wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution consisting of 1/4 cup of unscented household bleach per gallon of water for clean surfaces. Re-label your cans, including the expiration date, with a marker. Food containers with screw-caps, snap lids and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come in contact with floodwaters because they cannot be disinfected.

Contaminated Items

Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers. There is no way to safely clean them if they have come in contact with contaminated floodwaters. Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils with soap and hot water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1/4 cup of household bleach per gallon of water.


Basic hygiene is very important during natural disaster. Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected and cooled. Hands should be washed before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, after handling uncooked food, after playing with a pet, after handling garbage, after tending to someone who is sick or injured, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after participating in flood cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.

For further information, please contact the Environmental Health Division of the Chautauqua County Department of Health & Human Services at 716-753-4489 or visit www.co.chautauqua.ny.us .

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