Public water systems must notify their customers when they violate EPA or state drinking water regulations (including monitoring requirements) or otherwise provide drinking water that may pose a risk to consumer’s health.
Water systems test regularly for approximately 90 contaminants to make sure that no contaminant is present at levels which may pose a risk to human health.
Unfortunately, water quality can sometimes change. Despite the efforts of water suppliers, problems with drinking water can and do occur.
When it does, people who drink the water have a right to know what happened and what they need to do. The public notice requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act require water suppliers to provide this notice.
EPA sets strict requirements on the form, manner, content, and frequency of public notices. Notices must contain:
- A description of the violation that occurred, including the potential health effects
- The population at risk and if alternate water supplies need to be used
- What the water system is doing to correct the problem
- Actions consumers can take
- When the violation occurred and when the system expects it to be resolved
- How to contact the water system for more information
- Language encouraging broader distribution of the notice
EPA specifies three categories, or tiers, of public notification. Depending on what tier a violation or situation falls into, water systems have different amounts of time to distribute the notice and different ways to deliver the notice:
- Immediate Notice (Tier 1): Any time a situation occurs where there is the potential for human health to be immediately impacted, water suppliers have 24 hours to notify people who may drink the water of the situation. Water suppliers must use media outlets such as television, radio, and newspapers, post their notice in public places, or personally deliver a notice to their customers in these situations.
- Notice as soon as possible (Tier 2): Any time a water system provides water with levels of a contaminant that exceed EPA or state standards or that hasn’t been treated properly, but that doesn’t pose an immediate risk to human health, the water system must notify its customers as soon as possible, but within 30 days of the violation. Notice may be provided via the media, posting, or through the mail.
- Annual Notice (Tier 3): When water systems violate a drinking water standard that does not have a direct impact on human health (for example, failing to take a required sample on time) the water supplier has up to a year to provide a notice of this situation to its customers. The extra time gives water suppliers the opportunity to consolidate these notices and send them with annual water quality reports (consumer confidence reports).
THE DISTRICT’S PUBLIC NOTIFICATION PROCESS FOR TIER I VIOLATIONS AND CONTAMINATION EVENTS
The District’s Laboratory, through water quality analysis will confirm a suspected water quality problem.
If the problem has the potential to be a Tier I drinking water violation, the State Department of Public Health (DPH) will then be contacted and a determination of the necessary public notification requirements will be confirmed (Violation Tier Level, 1, 2 or 3).
Should the violation be identified as a Tier I violation, a Public Notification statement will then be prepared by the District and approved (if not previously approved) by the DPH. The District will then notify the Media and the DPH will communicate with local health departments and forward the risk communication document for their information, using DPH’s health alert network, (HAN). Local health departments will be asked to contact the critical facilities in their respective towns i.e.: Daycare centers, Schools, Hospitals and Dialysis centers.
BOIL WATER ORDER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. Why is a Boil Water Order issued, and how long will it last?
A. The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), in conjunction with the District will issue a Boil Water Order when there is concern about potential bacterial contamination to the drinking water supply. The District, with the assistance of the DPH will develop a plan to eliminate any potential source of contamination and a testing plan will be developed to verify the water is safe to drink. The testing plan typically requires 48 to 72 hours to complete. When tests demonstrate there is no longer a public health risk, the DPH will end the Boil Water Order. The Boil Water Order can last longer than 72 hours if tests show potential further contamination.
Q. What should I do if I have already consumed some of the water?
A. If you think you may have consumed some of the water, prior to the notification, watch for gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. If you do experience these symptoms, it is recommended you see your doctor or physician immediately to determine the source of the symptoms.
Q. How long should I let the water boil?
A. To appropriately boil water, customers should bring the water to a boil and let it boil for at least one minute, and then let cool before using.
Q. Can we use the water to wash and bathe?
A. The Boil Water Order prohibits drinking or cooking unless the water is boiled first. Taking showers, bathing and washing hands, laundry and dishes are permitted. Adults, teens and older children can wash, bathe or shower; however, they should avoid swallowing the water. Toddlers and infants should be sponge bathed.
Q. Do I have to boil the water if I have a reverse osmosis system?
A. Reverse osmosis is not designed for removing bacterial contamination. Therefore, boiling water is still required.
Q. Is it necessary to boil all water in the home during an advisory or order?
A. During Boil Water Orders you should boil all water used for drinking, preparing food, beverages, ice cubes, washing fruits and vegetables, or brushing teeth. It is not necessary to boil tap water used for other household purposes, such as showering, laundry or bathing.
Q. What should I do in my home?
A. Follow these instructions:
- Discard any water stored before the boil water order.
- Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute, cool it and store in a clean, covered container.
- If water is visibly cloudy, bring water to a rolling boil for 3 minutes.
- Bottled water and distilled water from approved sources may be used instead.
- Use boiled or bottled water for drinking, cooking, cleaning fruits and vegetables, brushing teeth and for coffee and ice machines.
- Household pets should also be given boiled or bottled water to drink.
- To wash dishes by hand or clean countertops, use hot, soapy water then rinse with cooled, boiled water.
- Use the regular or sani-cycle on the dishwasher. The energy saving cycle won’t get water hot enough to kill parasites/bacteria.
- Laundry may be done as usual.
- Hot tubs and whirlpools maintained according to manufactures guidelines, including
- chlorine, bromine or ozone levels, are safe to use. Do not swallow any water if using them.
Q. What isn’t safe?
A. See below:
- Coffee machines don’t get water hot enough for long enough.
- Freezing water (ice machines, ice cubes) doesn’t kill organisms that may be present.
- When bathing/showering, do not swallow any water.
- When bathing children, do not let them chew on washcloths or toys used in the bath. Toys in the bath may hold water in them. Clean the toys by putting them through the dishwasher.