In January, a spill of MCHM left the drinking water of nearly 300,000 residents in West Virginia undrinkable and unusable.
This past weekend, 400,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio experienced a similar drinking water ban, this time brought about by an algae bloom in Lake Erie that carried dangerous levels of microcystin and cyanotoxin into the water supply.
On the surface, these two drinking water bans are quite different, as West Virginia residents lived through weeks of uncertainty due to a spill of a man-made chemical, while Ohio residents – fortunately – were dealing with more of a known, natural entity. That said, the end result remained the same.
Similarly, the next recommend steps for residents of West Virginia, Ohio, or any future region that lives through such an occurrence also remain the same. With thanks to WXYZ in Detroit, WTVG in Toledo, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia, please find below a list of ten steps you should take after living through a drinking water ban. It is recommended that you follow the steps below in order, skipping any step that is not applicable to your home or business:
1. Regenerate Your Water Softener
Fundamentally, what you will be doing after any drinking water ban is flushing your plumbing system and cleaning or replacing anything that has come into contact with contaminated water. If a water softener is in use in your home or business, it should be manually regenerated before you begin the flushing and cleaning processes, detailed more below. Your water softener’s manual or an equipment supplier can offer assistance, if you have never completed a manual regeneration. If there is not a water softener in use in your home or business, go directly to the next applicable step.
2. Backwash Your Sediment Filter
If a sediment filter is in use in your home, completing a manual backwash will ensure the next steps you take to flush your plumbing system will be more effective. In fact, it is recommended that you backwash your sediment filter both before and after you flush your plumbing system.
3. Flush Hot & Cold Water Taps
A simple and effective way to ensure that final bit of contamination flows through your pipes and down your drain, rather than into your glass, is to allow your taps to run continuously for five to fifteen minutes.
Start with the hot water taps and leave on for fifteen minutes. This will help free your hot water heater from dangerous levels of contamination. Next, do the same for any cold water taps for five minutes. Note that this includes your refrigerator water dispenser. Before flushing, you may also remove any filter in use from taps that do not depend on these being attached in order to serve water. This can help the flushing process move a bit more efficiently and give you a head-start on step six below.
4. Flush & Clean Every Toilet
Once you’ve flushed your taps, simply give each toilet in your home a quick flush and a clean. This step is more critical for dog owners, as a toilet represents little more than a great big bowl of clean drinking water, regardless of what contaminants may be lurking.
5. Flush Any Remaining Faucets
From external faucets and hose bibs, to the sink in your laundry room, all faucets in your home should be flushed. After you’ve opened every hot and cold water tap, and flushed every toilet, walkabout your home to ensure every tap has an opportunity to run and rid itself of contamination.
6. Change All Water Filters Currently In Use
This direction comes directly from the CDC, in regards to what residents should do after a boil water alert ends (ie a different type of drinking water ban, where water may be used if boiled first.) Changing out water filters is an important part of the flushing process as any filter currently in use is at risk for trapping some of the contaminants that led to the ban in the first place.
To minimize risk of exposure, change your inline water filters, sediment filters, refrigerator water filters, shower filters, filters used in your water pitchers – literally – every filter serving water in your home. If you need help finding your filters, just visit our online store, use our filter finder, or call our customer service team at 1-800-277-3458.
7. Discard of Anything Made With Water
From Kool-Aid to baby formula, and from iced tea to lemonade, if you made it with water poured during the time of the drinking water ban – dump it. (And then make some more, because everything we mentioned above is delicious!)
8. Flush Icemaker & Discard Ice
After flushing and sanitizing your icemaker, make and discard three batches of ice, to ensure any ice you use or serve is as free as possible from any contaminants. While this may feel like overkill, the instruction comes directly from the CDC.
9. Sanitize Dishwasher
This step does more than help free your appliance of any lingering contaminants – it helps improve both the lifespan and performance of your dishwasher by lifting away scale, scum and grease. Our online store offers two powerful dishwasher cleaners that can help, including a version from Cerama Bryte (pictured above) and the enhanced Pro Products Magic Dishwasher Cleaner which helps clean and sanitize, while reducing bacteria, E. Coli and Salmonella.
10. Clean & Sanitize All Pet Bowls
For pet owners, keeping contaminated water out of reach is an absolute necessity. Simply put, your pet (especially if your pet is a big, slobbery dog) will drink just about anything that’s put out there. During a drinking water ban, ensure your pet drinks only bottled water or water that has been declared safe – and use a fresh bowl. After the drinking water ban ends, ensure that any bowl that came into contact with contaminated water is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. If you’re following these steps in order, you should have a clean and sanitary dishwasher that can help.
Complete the steps above after any drinking water ban, in order, and everyday life in your home will be back to normal before you know it. If you’ve been through a drinking water ban, and recommend adding more steps to this list, I invite you to share via a comment below. I also invite you to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or +1 us on Google+ to be the first to see news and instruction regarding any future drinking water bans, alerts or emergencies.
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