Health Info for 108 Mile Returnees
Prince George, B.C. – While the news residents in the 108 Mile area can return home, it may not be as simple as just pulling up the drive and unlocking the door.
Interior Health has prepared a special info bulletin, covering a number of things that should be checked, or considered when folks return home.
Power outages and fire retardants may have affected the quality of water and the safety of food. The impact will vary according to each situation but all evacuees are advised to take steps to ensure food and water are safe. Photographs may be useful to document damage for insurance purposes – take photos prior to moving anything or throwing anything damaged away.
Drinking water quality:
For residents who are on a community water system:
Questions about the quality of drinking water should be directed to the local water supplier (e.g. municipality, utility provider, etc.). These suppliers are best able to assess how their systems have been affected and whether there is any impact on the quality of drinking water.
If you cannot reach your water supplier and are unsure if your water has been impacted, it is recommended that you use an alternate source (bottled water).
Community water systems where fire retardant was used in their watershed area will have increased monitoring for changes in water quality. Public notifications will be issued if there is some level of risk or uncertainty associated with drinking water use.
For residents on smaller systems or individual wells who suspect their water supply has been affected by the fire:
An alternative source of drinking water should be used until the water source can be assessed or tested.
You may need to evaluate the quality of tap water and find alternate source, such as bottled water until you water supply has been confirmed to be safe.
Private surface and ground water sources affected by fire retardant application should be tested to ensure compliance with the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
If the power has been out in your home or if you have been evacuated for a prolonged period (more than 5 days), the food in your fridge or freezer may no longer be safe to eat. Also, food can be damaged by heat, smoke, ash, soot, water and possible chemical residues. The following tips will help you determine if food has been affected.
The main concerns are power outages that affect temperature control of food. You can monitor temperatures using thermometers:
Refrigerated foods must be under 4 degrees Celsius and frozen food must be at -18 degrees Celsius or less. A full chest freezer will keep food frozen for up to 2 days A half-full chest freezer will keep food frozen for up to 1 day A cooler or fridge will keep food cold for 4 hours.
If you don’t have a thermometer or if you don’t know how long your fridge or freezer was without power, check the products in the fridge for spoilage and souring.
Clean and disinfect your fridge or freezer once you have discarded the spoiled food.
Remember, if in doubt – throw it out. Do not take any chances with the safety of your food.
Clean and disinfect any intact cans of food before opening to make sure the contents are not contaminated.
If there has been an extended power outage, you may wish to contact your insurance provider to discuss what losses are covered. Make a list of items discarded and photograph those items (if possible) for insurance purposes.
Additionally, if you are concerned about the safety of your refrigerator, cooler or freezer, you may need to replace it. If you choose to replace your appliance, photograph its outside and inside for use in speaking with your insurance provider. Individuals should also contact their local government or landfill regarding proper fridge disposal.
During fires, some components of septic systems may be damaged. If your property was directly impacted by fire your septic system should be assessed by a Registered Onsite Wastewater Practitioner (ROWP). To find an ROWP in your area: http://owrp.asttbc.org/c/finder.php.
Pools and hot tubs
Power outages will also cause the circulation and treatment systems of pools and hot tubs to stop working. Private pool owners should ensure adequate disinfection (chlorine levels) and circulation prior to using the pool. Commercial pools may be closed temporarily as operators rebalance their chemicals.
For more information on health and safety considerations and tips for cleanup view click here.