AFTER A FIRE - Drinking Water and Water Tank Safety
If you live in a bushfire-affected area your drinking water tank could have become contaminated from debris, ash, dead animals or aerial fire retardants.
If the water tastes, looks or smells unusual, do not drink it or give it to animals. Water from a river or creek should never be used for drinking or preparing food unless it has been properly treated. Water drawn from deep bores or wells should be safe to use.
Victorian Government is recommending putting chlorine bleach into water to sanitise (www.health.vic.gov.au/environment/bushfires).
Surely this is not the most ideal way to purify drinking water.
The use of a Genzon Water Purifier will remove all toxic chemicals, bacteria and heavy metals from the water, then re-mineralise, alkalise and ionize. The use of a Genzon water purifier gives peace of mind that the water you are drinking is the most pure and healthy available.
How can I prevent my drinking water tank from becoming contaminated?
Prior to a bushfire:
- ensure your tank is properly sealed and maintained
- disconnect the downpipes to your tanks as soon as there is a bushfire risk. After a bushfire:
- only reconnect the downpipes when the roof has been cleaned (either manually or after a good flush of rain).
What if it rains before I can disconnect the downpipes?
- Prior to using your water inspect your roof, gutters and if possible look inside your tank for signs of contamination.
- Water testing is not necessary because contamination is usually obvious.
- If your water has been contaminated the taste, colour or smell, will change.
- Contaminated water should not be used for drinking or preparing food. Use an alternate supply for drinking.
- Tank water that is not suitable for drinking can be used on the garden.
- Wear gloves to remove dead animals from your roof, your gutters or in your tank.
- Dispose of gloves after use, and disinfect your tank water before re-using it. Water can be disinfected by bringing the water to a rolling boil, or by using chlorine (bleach). To boil water for drinking purposes: bring water to a boil by heating water until a continuous and rapid stream of air- bubble is produced from the bottom of a pan or kettle. Kettles with automatic shut off switches are suitable.
- Firefighting activities can use any available source of water, such as farm dams and rivers. This water is not suitable for drinking, if it enters your water tank do not drink the water.
- Fire retardants have been used in Victoria for the past 30 years to slow the spread or intensity of a fire. They help firefighters on the ground and are sometimes dropped from aircraft.
- If deposited on your roof, these chemicals should not enter your tank if the down pipes are disconnected. Prior to reconnecting your down pipes, hose off the roof catchment area or wait for a heavy rain to prevent possible fire retardant entering your tank.
If fire retardants have entered enter your water tank, do not drink the water.
High levels of ammonia and sulfate in water will make the water smell terrible and taste salty. It will not be suitable as drinking water for humans or animals (pets or livestock).
Fire retardant contaminated water can still be used for irrigation and firefighting purposes. Boiling water does not remove fire retardants or other chemicals from your water.
If your water tank has been contaminated it is strongly recommended that you get it professionally cleaned prior to re-using it for drinking purposes.
How soon after a fire can I use my drinking water tank?
If the water in your tank has not been contaminated, the water should be safe to drink. However, do not reconnect your downpipes until your roof has been cleaned or after a good flush of rain.Only clean the ash and debris from your roof and gutters when it is safe to do so. It should not be necessary to clean your tank after a fire unless it is grossly polluted or smells and tastes unusual as a result of aerial fire retardants.