Helena public health officials warn people to keep out of floodwaters

Posted at 7:54 PM, May 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:02:40-04

HELENA – The floodwaters affecting the Helena Valley don’t only cause physical damage. Local health officials say they can also bring serious health concerns.

“Floodwater has passed across the surface of the Earth, and is picking up everything that is on the surface of the Earth,” said Kathy Moore, environmental division administrator for Lewis and Clark Public Health.

The waters can include a variety of contaminants ranging from motor oil and pesticides to sewage. Moore said anyone who comes into contact with the water needs to wash with soap as soon as possible. She said it’s especially important to keep children and animals away from floodwaters.

“Pets will track that and will get it in the carpets and the floors, so you need to make sure that you’ve got your pets kind of wiped off at the doorway,” she said.

Moore said rising groundwater flooding people’s basements can also be contaminated.

Moore also said anyone who uses a water well that is surrounded by or very close to floodwaters should presume it is contaminated.

“The ideal solution would be not to use it at all, to drink bottled water and use bottled water for cooking and brushing your teeth,” she said.

If residents have to use their well water, she said they should at least boil it, to kill any disease-causing microorganisms.

Once the floodwaters recede later this year, Moore said residents will need to test their wells for bacterial infection. If the wells are contaminated, they will have to be disinfected.

Lewis and Clark Public Health has posted information on how to check and disinfect a well on their website.

Moore said homeowners with a drain field for their wastewater should cut back on water usage if the field floods. That will help prevent even more excess water from building up in the field.

When the flooding ends, Moore said it will be important to dry rooms and belongings out as quickly as possible, to prevent mold from growing.