Boil Water Alerts

In extraordinary circumstances, it may be necessary to issue a notice to potable water customers that indicates the water supply is not suitable for drinking; this is known as a ‘boil water alert’. These instances may include detection of contamination in the potable water system, failure of the treatment process (including exceedance of critical control points) or poor raw water quality.

Under Section 22 of the Public Health Act 2010, the Chief Health Officer has the power to issue advice, for the benefit of the public, concerning the safety of drinking water and any possible risks to health. This advice may include a boil water alert. Council will issue the advice to the public in a form and manner directed by the Chief Health Officer.

Council may issue a boil water alert of its own discretion. However, before issuing a boil water alert, Council will consult with Public Health Unit (PHU) wherever possible. Once a boil water alert has been issued, Singleton Council will notify customers urgently and will use a combination of the contact and communication methods. Council will consult with the PHU before lifting a boil water alert. In lifting a boil water alert, Singleton Council will endeavour to communicate the information in the same way the alert was issued.

Council will consider providing alternate sources of water to affected customers, including bottled water, dependent on the scale and anticipated length of time the boil water alert is anticipated to last.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

When is a Boil Water Alert recommended?
NSW Health recommends a Boil Water Alert when there is a known contamination of the water supply OR when there is a risk of contamination in the water supply. NSW Health and Boil Water Alert Protocols determine the procedure to be followed.

What can I drink during a Boil Water Alert?
You can drink tap water if it has been boiled at a rolling boil for one minute. Cool and store all boiled water in a covered container. Kettles with automatic cut-off switches are suitable and variable temperature kettles should be set to boil. If you do not wish to boil your water, you may choose to buy commercially packaged water for drinking.

I drank the water before I realised there was a Boil Water Alert. Am I going to get sick?
The Boil Water Alert has been recommended as a precaution. If you drank the water before hearing of the advice, your risk of becoming ill is low. However, if you begin to feel unwell you should seek medical attention. Advise your health care practitioner that you have consumed tap water during the Boil Water Alert.

During a Boil Water Alert, why are restaurants/food premises are still open?
When there is a Boil Water Alert, restaurants/food premises are given very specific guidelines from NSW Health as to how to operate. These guidelines will ensure that the foods being served to the public remain safe. The NSW Food Authority has a helpful fact sheet Guidelines for the use of Non-Potable Water in Food Businesses to assist food premises ensure their water supply is safe for food preparation and human consumption.

Can I use the water for other purposes?
You can use the water for bathing as long as you do not drink it. Supervise babies and children during bathing to ensure that they do not drink the water. Cool boiled water should be used for food preparation, brushing teeth, ice making.

How long is boiled water safe to drink?
As long as the water is protected from contamination, it should remain safe to drink. Once the water has been boiled, cover it and place it in the refrigerator for future consumption.

Can my pets drink the water?
Pets should be provided with cooled boiled water, or water from an alternate source until the Boil Water Alert is lifted.

Can I use my coffee maker?
Most residential coffee makers are not capable of maintaining high temperatures for a long enough period of time to make the water safe to drink, use boiled water to fill your coffee machine water tank and if connected to the mains supply do not use the coffee machine until the Boil Water Alert has been lifted. Be sure to clean the coffee machine thoroughly before use once the Boil Water Alert is over.

Coffee and tea can be made by using water that has been brought to a rolling boil for a period of one minute or bottled water. If using an automatic shut off kettle, make sure the water has boiled for one minute.

Can I use my activated charcoal filter system (i.e. Brita or other brand names) to treat my water during a Boil Water Alert?
No. These filters are not designed to remove contamination from an unsafe water supply. If you have run the water through your filter during the Boil Water Alert it could be contaminated. It is recommended that you discard the filter and replace it with a new one once the Boil Water Alert is over.

How do I safely prepare my baby’s formula during the Boil Water Alert?
Sterilise all bottles, rings, utensils and nipples in boiling water for two minutes. The water being mixed with the formula should have been boil at a rolling boil for at least two minutes, which will sterilise the water, prior to mixing with the formula and feeding.

Information on considerations in determining the need for a boil water alert and communication methods can be found in POL/26030 Water Supply Services Policy.