What to do with contaminated water
BUSHFIRES have the potential to cause a number of environmental health concerns beyond the immediate damage caused by the fire.
Mansfield Shire Council received a number of questions about drinking water, specifically tank water and posted some answers to those queries on its website.
The Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services has also developed a factsheet on private drinking water and water tank safety available at www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
If you live in a bushfireaffected area your drinking water tank could have become contaminated from debris, ash, dead animals or aerial fire retardants.
If the water tastes, looks or smells unusual, do not drink it or give it to animals.
Water from a river or creek should never be used for drinking or preparing food unless it has been properly treated.
Water drawn from deep bores or wells should be safe to use.
If you are concerned, you should source an alternative drinking water supply until you are confident you normal water supply is safe.
Some suggestions on what to do if you suspect water has been tainted or contaminated:
Smoke taint alone is unlikely to be a health concern. However, if you are concerned about the taste of your rainwater, use bottled water for drinking and continue to use your rainwater for other uses.
A bushfire affected area is where water retardant and water bombing activities have occurred, and ash has fallen directly onto the properties.
What do I do if there are dead animals in my drinking water system?
Wear gloves to remove dead animals from your roof, your gutters or in your tank. Dispose of gloves after use, and disinfect your tank water before re-using it.
Water can be disinfected by bringing the water to a rolling boil, or by using chlorine (bleach).
To boil water for drinking purposes: bring water to a boil by heating until a rapid stream of air-bubble is produced from the bottom of a pan or kettle. Kettles with automatic shut off switches are suitable.
To disinfect your tank water using chlorine, use the following instructions:
For every 1000 litres of water in your tank you can safely add:
Approximately 125mL or 125g of four per cent chlorine household bleach (avoid bleaches that contain detergents or perfumes), or
approximately 40mL or 40g of 12.5 per cent chlorine liquid swimming pool or dairy factory chlorine, or
Approximately 8mL or 8g of 65 per cent granular ‘swimming pool’ chlorine.
After chlorinating, you should wait at least 24 hours before using the water to allow for microorganisms to be destroyed.