What is a “Boil Water Notice”?

A boil water notice is a notification that advises customers to boil tap water used for drinking, cooking and ice-making until tests verify the water is safe. The sampled water test generally take 24 hours to complete. It is not necessary to boil water for showering or other external uses. (See chart below)

Activities that DO require boiled water ** Activities that DO NOT require boiled water
Drinking Showering
Washing food served without cooking/baking Tub Bathing
Adding water to food without cooking/baking Dish washing or rinsing *
Ice Making Laundering
Cleaning food contact surfaces General cleaning, mopping
Gargling Hand washing
Eye washing Pet watering
Taking water with medications Pet bathing
Tooth brushing Plant water/irrigation

* Cleaned dishes and utensils should be rinsed in water that contains 1 tablespoon of household (non-scented) bleach per gallon of water (100-200 ppm chlorine) and allowed to air dry before use. ** Water used for activities that require boiling should be brought to a rolling boil for a minimum of 1 minute.

Why do drinking water suppliers,  such as the City of St. Helens,  issue boil-water notices?

Water suppliers are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to notify customers to boil water when or when conditions exist that make the water supply vulnerable to contamination. These conditions include a drop in system pressure to below 20 pounds per square inch, a break in a major distribution line, a malfunction of the treatment system, a cross-connection to a contaminated water supply, or if routine water samples indicate a possible contamination.

Why do these conditions call for boiling water? 

As you can see from the picture, our precious drinking water can become contaminated when a pipe breaks and the leak has been isolated for repair. When service is interrupted and distribution lines are emptied, contaminants can enter the lines that transport water. Although waterborne diseases are extremely rare, they can be serious. The risk is higher for infants, the elderly and persons with immune deficiency disorders. The City of St. Helens issues boil-water notices even if the possibility of contamination is remote, because we do not want to take any chances with your family’s health.

opendrain   leak main break  flooding

What does boiling water accomplish?

Boiling is considered the safest and most effective method of water disinfection. Vigorous boiling for two minutes will kill any disease-causing microorganisms and parasites present in water. The flat taste of boiled water can be improved by aeration: pouring it back and forth from one container to another. Some even drop a thin slice of fresh lemon into the water container. Another suggestion is to add just a pinch of salt to a gallon of water to “sweeten” the taste of boiled water. In lieu of boiling, you may purchase bottled water or get water from another suitable source.

When should I boil my tap water? 

 It’s prudent to boil water when your water supplier issues a boil-water notice, when service has been interrupted, or when a natural disaster like a flood or hurricane has disrupted water service.

How does the City of St. Helens inform customers about boil-water notices? 

We use a variety of methods to communicate this important information.The first is from the E911 database which includes all landline telephones throughout Columbia County. The data is uploaded to the Columbia County Map, connecting the landline phone number(s) to their address.The second way is by our Community Sign Up, for citizens who use cell phones as their only way of contact, or those who want to include their cell phone(s) for notification in addition to their landline phones. We manually add those in the CAN (Columbia Alert Network) system and for any notification, we go through the community lists and find the people who fall in the selected area and are active, those registered cell/VoIP, and email addresses as well. To be added to the CAN system a form is available on the City of St. Helens web site www.ci.st-helens.or.us.

St. Helens staff called businesses, restaurants, schools and health care and the dialysis clinic. The news media was also contacted. The same methods are used to notify customers that the notice has ended.

Do you have any concerns, questions or comments. howieb@ci.st-helens.or.us