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Safe Water

Drinking water advisories

We issue advisories to notify the public when there are conditions that indicate drinking water may not be safe for consumption. These advisory notices are to help prevent possible water-borne illness. We issue boil water, do not drink and do not use advisories depending on the type of contamination to the drinking water. Bacteria and other harmful contaminants can make their way into our drinking water supply through:

  • Improper disinfection and/or treatment of water
  • Loss of pressure in the water system due to a water main break
  • Flooding
  • Community outbreak of a water-borne illness

Boil Water Advisories (BWA) are issued when conditions or concerns may adversely affect the quality or safety of your water supply. A BWA is put in place to protect you from harmful organisms such as bacteria or parasites that may be in your water and can make you and your family sick.

The extent of restrictions on water use depends on the situation and the reason for issuing a boil water advisory. Boiling of the water is required as a short-term solution to rectify the problem found in the water.

If a BWA has been issued, it is important that you and your family properly boil or treat all the water in your home.

During a BWA, it is not safe to use water directly from your tap. Only boiled, treated water or an alternate water source (i.e. bottled water) should be used for drinking, preparing food, making beverages or ice cubes, washing foods, or brushing your teeth. Pets can get some of the same illnesses as people so they should be given bottled water or boiled water that has been cooled.

To boil water:

  • Fill a pot with water.
  • Heat the water until bubbles come from the bottom of the pot to the top.
  • Once the water reaches a rolling boil, let it boil for one minute.
  • Turn off the heat source and let the water cool.
  • Pour the water into a clean container with a cover for storage.

Do Not Drink or Do Not Use drinking water advisories are issued during situations when boiling the water or disinfecting the water will NOT get rid of the problem with the water supply. If there is a chemical contamination in the water, boiling the water may actually INCREASE the concentration of chemical in the water. It is not safe to drink this water.

A Do Not Drink advisory is issued when an alternate water source such as bottled water should be used for consuming, food preparation, preparing infant formula, gargling, brushing teeth, washing dishes, making ice and beverages, and for pets to drink. However, the water may still be used for bathing, showering, and performing hand hygiene.

An example of when a Do Not Drink advisory is issued includes when drinking water sample results are in exceedance of the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards for lead.

A Do Not Use advisory is issued when an alternate water source such as bottled water should be used for bathing, showering, hand hygiene, consumption, food preparation, preparing infant formula, gargling, brushing teeth, making ice and beverages, washing dishes, for pets to drink, and washing fruits and vegetables. A Do Not Use drinking water advisory is issued when drinking water becomes contaminated with chemicals.

During drinking water advisories, we will provide specific directions for the type of contamination found in the drinking water. These directions will include using an alternate water source for the following:

  • making ice, juice, coffee, tea, and infant formula (ready-to-serve infant formula is the safest option for formula-fed infants if water safety is a concern)
  • for food preparation, including washing fruits and vegetables
  • washing hands, brushing teeth, and gargling
  • dishwashing

An alternative water supply is water from a municipal water source or commercially bottled water.

Unopened commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable source of water in an emergency. If you do not have bottled water and are getting water from a municipal water bottle filling station or other municipal source, follow these recommendations to help protect your health:

  • DO use clean containers to collect water
  • DO use food grade water storage containers
  • DO use containers made of durable, unbreakable materials (i.e. not glass)
  • DO NOT USE containers that previously have been used to hold liquid or solid toxic chemicals (bleach, pesticides, etc.)
  • DO NOT put hoses directly into your container when filling your water bottle at a bottle filling station
  • DO NOT store your filled water bottles on the floor in order to prevent contamination from flood waters
Illness can occur when someone drinks contaminated water. Signs and symptoms include severe stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you are experiencing symptoms and have consumed water in an affected area, follow up with your health care provider. Please share with your health care provider that you have consumed water in an area affected by a BWA/DWA. If you are experiencing diarrhea, your health care provider may request submission of a stool sample.
A drinking water advisory BWA/DWA will be lifted when the health unit's Medical Officer of Health is sure that the water is safe. This will follow laboratory testing showing that the water has no signs of contamination. This may take several days depending on the requirements set by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and/or the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Following a drinking water advisory, it is important that residents on municipal systems do the following:

  • Run cold water faucets for a minimum of 5 (five) minutes before using the water.
  • Run drinking fountains for 5 (five) minutes before using the water.
  • Flush all garden hoses by running cold water through them for 5 (five) minutes.
  • Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.
  • Reverse Osmosis (RO) units: Replace pre-filters and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Replace other water filters, as they are disposable and may be contaminated. This applies especially to carbon filters and others that are near the end of their life.
  • Flush, clean, and sanitize appliances with water line connections (e.g. fridges with water and ice dispensers) following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Drain and refill hot water heaters set below 45°C (113°F). Normal setting is 60°C (140°F).
  • Drain and flush all ice-making machines and soda fountain machines.
  • Dispose of any ice made during the advisory.
  • Large-volume users (for example; restaurants, hospitals, retirement homes, and schools) may need to run cold water taps for a longer period of time on first use to ensure the water is not cloudy.

If you are on a private water supply that may have been impacted during a drinking water advisory (i.e. by flooding), you should:

  • continue to use an alternative water source until you confirm your water is safe for use;
  • assess your well/surface water intake to check for floodwaters and damage;
  • flush the well of any floodwater;
  • disinfect the well and internal plumbing;
  • change any treatment filters;
  • check any water system treatment devices to ensure they are working properly; and
  • sample your water at least twice a few weeks apart to ensure it is safe for consumption.
Any questions related to drinking water advisories can be directed to public health inspectors Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.
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