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What Boiled Water Notices Mean to You

May 6, 2019

Announcer:  Farm and Family is production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers:  Today we're talking about what boiled water notices mean to you. Hello. I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. Jason Barrett, Mississippi State University, assistant extension professor.

Dr. Barrett, boiled water notices are super familiar to most of us. What exactly is a boiled water notice?

Jason Barrett: A boil water notice is associated with a public water supply or what we would know as a community water system here in Mississippi. It is exactly what it says it is. It is a notice for anybody that's going to drink water or use it for cooking to boil the water before they use it.

Amy Myers: And what circumstances can cause a boiled water notice to happen?

Jason Barrett: Well, you've got a couple of things. Boil water notices will either be issued by Mississippi State Department of Health, or they will be issued by the system themselves. The things that can cause it from the Health Department standpoint when they get monthly bacteriological samples from the system, if there are issues found, they will notify the system to issue a boil water notice, or they will notify the system that a boil water notice needs to be put out. And in that situation, the Health Department will be the one to take the system off of a boil water notice once they get clean samples back.

But the water system themselves, if there are line breaks or if they have a well go down, any issue, repairs, and maintenance, points that they feel it's possible to have either untreated water in the system or water just got infected in some manner, they would issue a boil water notice. If the system issues the boil water notice, they can take themselves off, and most of the time after the system has been flushed and the operator makes sure that they got a good chlorine residual, they'll pull themselves off.

Amy Myers: Now that we know what it is and what causes it, let's just say that I'm a customer. What do I need to do as a result of a boiled water notice?

Jason Barrett: Regardless if the Health Department puts the system on, or the system puts themselves on a boil water notice, the customer needs to really be conscious of that, and any water that they would use for drinking or cooking, they would need to boil it. Because when you're boiling it, you're actually killing any bacteria that's in the water that maybe harmful to us, so it's very important to take heed to boil water notices. You want to make sure that you follow those, but you shouldn't have any issue if you just need water for flushing commodes, those types of things.

Amy Myers:   Boil the water for a couple of minutes at a rolling boil, and then let it cool down if you're going to drink it?

Jason Barrett: Yes, correct.

Amy Myers: What does the water system itself need to do to address boil water notices?

Jason Barrett: Well this again goes back to whether it's the Health Department or themselves putting them on. The Health Department puts a system on a boil water notice. The Health Department will require that they've got clean, bacteria samples before they say, "Okay, you can take yourselves off." And what they're doing is making sure that the system is free and clear of bacteria.

Now when a system themselves put on, regardless if it was repairs or maintenance or a line break, what they will do is actually flush the system and make sure they have good chlorine residual, which again is meaning there's no bacteria, or what bacteria was there is now gone. Once they see that and have a good clear residual, they should take people off of the boil water notice.

Amy Myers: Something some of us might be wondering about is how do we receive boil water notices?

Jason Barrett: Well, depending on the size of the system, and I'm going to say the communication structure they have in place, it may be anything from seeing it on the news, seeing maybe a sign in a yard. Some systems may put fliers on your doors. You may see yard signs where they say a boil water notice had been issued, but in today's time, we've got some technology that's actually texting folks or emailing people on the water system, so there may be multiple ways to get the information, but a system will make the efforts to notify all of its customers, or at least the customers that are affected by it.

Amy Myers: If we have any questions, can we just call our water system provider?

Jason Barrett: Sure. That's the first line is call your water system, call your water utility, and just ask. That is what they're there for. Customers need to understand that a lot of these systems are large, and if there's an issue in the system, the water system will not know about it unless someone tells them, so if you're a customer and you have an issue, give them a call.

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Dr. Jason Barrett, Mississippi State University assistant extension professor. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.


Department: Ext Ctr for Government & Comm Devel

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