Keeping Water Safe During A Boil Water Advisory

So a boil water advisory has been issued for your community. What exactly does this mean? Does it apply to all water used in the home? How long should water be boiled? And what are the risks if water is not boiled? Michigan Urgent Care has consulted the experts in water quality and water-borne illnesses to guide you through a boil water advisory.

Why are Boil Water Advisories Issued?

Boil water advisories are issued when there has been a compromise in the municipal water system, typically when there is a water main break. A break in the water line can introduce harmful bacteria and other micro-organisms that can cause illness and, in some cases, be fatal to those with weakened immune systems. Boiling water will kill the harmful bacteria. Boiling water seems simple enough, yet there are steps to follow for maximum bacteria-killing results.

How should water be boiled?

According the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Bring a clean pot filled with water to boil.
  • Allow the pot to come to a rolling boil – when big bubbles move from the bottom to the top of the pan. The bubbles will appear as if they are rolling up the side of the pan and back into the pot.
  • Boil for 1 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Store in sanitized bottles.

What should boiled water be used for?

Always use boiled water that has been cooled for the following uses:

  • Drinking
  • Rinsing and Preparing Food
  • Washing Food Preparation Surfaces
  • Brushing Teeth
  • Formula for babies – bottled water is best. If not available, boiled water is safe to use.
  • Water for Pets

Is ice safe to use during a boil water emergency?

  • Ice prepared before the boil water advisory is safe to use.
  • Ice should be made with boiled water during a boil water advisory.

How should I shower or bathe during a boil water advisory?

  • Showering and bathing are safe with tap water during a boil water emergency.
  • Children and those with cognitive disabilities should be supervised during bathing a showering to ensure water isn’t swallowed.

What if I drank water from the tap before I knew there was a boil water advisory? 

Don’t worry. According to the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), “Even if someone has consumed potentially contaminated water before they were aware of the boil water advisory, the likelihood of becoming ill is low.”

What are the symptoms of illness caused by contaminated water?

The Great Lakes Water Authority website states, “Anyone experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, with or without fever, should contact their healthcare provider. Symptoms associated with waterborne illness are also associated with foodborne illness, or even the common cold. Most of these illnesses are not usually serious or life threatening except in the elderly, the very young or those with compromised immune systems.”

Michigan Urgent Care’s nine clinics are staff and equipped to evaluate symptoms associated with water-borne and food-borne illnesses. Seek medical attention for sudden onset and prolonged diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to dehydration.