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MDARD and EGLE Encourage Michiganders to Stay Safe and Healthy During and After a Flood

LANSING, MI -- With recent flooding across Michigan caused by the remnants of Hurricane Beryl and more severe weather expected throughout the summer storm season, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) remind residents to stay safe and healthy both during and after a flood, and to keep their food and water supply safe, by following some simple steps.

“Many Michiganders were recently impacted by widespread heavy rains and flooding. As recovery begins, there are steps Michiganders can take to keep themselves and their families safe after a flood,” said MDARD Director Tim Boring. “From discarding food that may have come in contact with flood or stormwater to storing food safely during a power outage, there are easy steps to implement that are critical to keeping Michiganders safe.”

MDARD is offering the following recommendations to Michiganders and food regulatory agencies on how best to prevent illness from food:

Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat. Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or stormwater, including any canned foods that are bulging, opened or damaged. Throw away food with an unusual odor, color, or texture. Throw away perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40°F for two hours or more. Remember, perishable foods that look or smell OK might still be contaminated if not kept properly refrigerated. Thawed food containing ice crystals or kept at 40°F or below can be refrozen or cooked. If cans have come in contact with floodwater or stormwater, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of one cup of bleach in five gallons of water. Re-label the cans with a permanent marker.
Store food safely. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Add block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off longer than four hours. Wear heavy gloves when handling ice.

MDARD routinely assists food regulatory agencies in coordinating emergency management efforts to better protect public health and minimize the economic impact of widespread emergency events. At this time, restaurants and other food-based businesses should follow their emergency action plans to help protect the safety of their employees, customers, and businesses. Michigan food establishments are reminded to contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 or to call their food inspector directly if flooding or a power outage has affected the food or beverages they are offering for sale, in addition to following their emergency action plans.

“Safety of food and drinking water is vital in any emergency situation,” said Eric Oswald, director of EGLE’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division. “Whether your water is from a municipal system or a private well, it’s important to watch for and follow authorities’ advisories after a disaster and to be aware of risks and how to avert them.”

Prevent illness from water:

Listen to and follow public announcements. Local authorities will tell you if public water is NOT safe to drink or to use for cooking or bathing. If the water is not safe to use, follow local instructions to use bottled water or to boil or disinfect water for cooking, cleaning, or bathing.

If under a boil water advisory, correctly boil or disinfect water. Hold water at a rolling boil for one minute to kill bacteria. If you can't boil water, add 1/8 teaspoon (approximately 0.75 mL) of newly purchased, unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of water. Stir the water well, and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. You can use water-purifying tablets instead of boiling water or using bleach. For infants, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula. Do not use powdered formulas prepared with treated water. Clean children's toys that have come in contact with water. Use a solution of one cup of bleach in five gallons of water to clean the toys. Let toys air dry after cleaning.
Consider well water safety. If flooding occurs around your water well, your drinking water may become contaminated. When flood waters rise over the top of the well, contaminants can enter through the well cap or vent and increase the risk of illness.

Floodwater may contain bacteria and viruses from soil, organic debris, and sewage, along with fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemical contaminants. Shallow wells and old, poorly constructed wells (dug wells, wells buried or located in below-grade pits) are especially vulnerable to water quality changes when floodwaters approach the well. Even if flooding at the ground surface does not occur, the rise in groundwater level near poorly constructed wells can impact the water safety. If your well has been flooded, you should immediately stop drinking the water and take steps including:

Once the flooding recedes, begin flushing the water system. Hook up a hose to an outside faucet or a faucet near the water storage tank and flush the water for at least two hours after the water clears up. If a large volume of water entered the well, several hours of pumping may be needed. Once the water is clear at the storage tank, flush the home distribution piping.

Contact a State of Michigan-registered water well drilling contractor and request that your water system be disinfected.

After flushing the chlorine from the system, collect a water sample and submit it to a certified laboratory for coliform bacteria analysis.

Contact your local health department for further assistance if needed.

An EGLE fact sheet includes further information.

Pets can also be vulnerable during floods and other emergencies. Here are some tips to keep pets safe:

Be aware that a pet’s behavior may change before, during, and even after a disaster. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered, and your pet may become confused and lost. In the first few days after the disaster, leash your pets when they go outside. Always maintain close contact. Reintroduce food in small servings, gradually working up to full portions, especially if animals have been without food for a prolonged period of time.

Pets can be poisoned by exposure to harmful chemicals, products, or foods. If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

For more information about staying safe and healthy before, during and after flooding, go to, or visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s consumer food safety website.