Warnings from Beaufort County Health Department

Published 12:09 pm Sunday, October 9, 2016

Beaufort County Public Health Department is advising the public on important precautions after Hurricane Matthew:

Food Safety

  • Minimize the number of times you open the freezer and refrigerator doors.
  • Food kept in a closed refrigerator will keep for approximately four hours from the time the power went off or if food is warmer than 41 F.  After that, throw it away.
  • Food kept in a closed freezer will last for approximately 48 hours.  After 48 hours, food should be cooked thoroughly or thrown away.  Do not refreeze thawed foods.
  • Any food (including food and drinks in cans, plastic or glass containers) that has come into contact with floodwaters should be thrown away.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!


Private Drinking Water Wells That Have Been Flooded:

  • Flooding can introduce impurities into private drinking water wells.  Property owners whose homes, rental units and businesses obtain water from a private well should be aware of potential health hazards should their well become submerged.
  • Use only bottled water for drinking and cooking, if available if your well has been flooded.
  • Plan to purchase enough bottle water to provide one gallon per person per day.
  • Tap water used for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth or making ice must be boiled for at least 5 minutes before use.
  • Pregnant women and children should use bottled water instead of tap water or boiled water.  Baby formula should be made with bottled water.  Boiled water is not good for babies and pregnant women.  However, if bottled water is not available, do not use untreated water—use boiled water until bottled water becomes available.
  • If you suspect your well has become contaminated, please contact Beaufort County Health Department at 946-6048.


Septic Tanks

  • Human exposure to wastewater can lead to disease transmission.  Do not let children play in flood water as these waters may be affected by sewage also.
  • If your septic tank has been flooded, do not use the plumbing system while the septic tank is still under water.
  • Do not use your plumbing system is sewage water has backed up into your home.
  • For information on repairing or constructing a septic tank system, contact our office at 946-6048.
  • After the storm, septic systems may be damaged during debris removal.  Vehicles can crush drainfields, tanks and distribution boxes, especially when the soil is saturated.  Pulling tree stumps with heavy equipment can also destroy drainfields.


Clean Up

  • Assume that everything touched by floodwater has been contaminated and will have to be disinfected or thrown away.
  • Wash your hands frequently and always wear protective gear (waterproof gloves and boots, long sleeves and pants, eye protection and a disposable filtering face mask, if possible).
  • Walls, hard-surface floors and counters can be cleaned with soap and water first, then with a solution of 1 cup bleach mixed into 4 gallons of water.  Go over the area twice with the bleach solution.  Pay particular care to areas where children will be playing.
  • Use a two-bucket method of cleaning-put the cleaning solution in one bucket and the rinse water in another.  Change rinse water frequently.
  • If the pilot light on your natural gas furnace or hot water heater has gone out, have it re-lit by a professional.