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Drinking Water and Health Hazards After Hurricane Sandy

A week after the disaster of hurricane Sandy struck, the states of New York and New Jersey are still warning some residents not to drink their town's tap water until contamination of the public water system can be eliminated. There are still many residents without power and this is contributing to the suffering that many are still experiencing.

Mayor Bloomberg and other New York City authorities assure residents that water across the city that if they have water, it is safe to drink. "The genius of the New York City water supply is that we have ample reservoirs located away from the city that are not groundwater based," deputy commissioner for environmental health at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Dan Kass told National Public Radio.

New York and New Jersey Drinking Water Compromised by Hurricane Sandy

Residents on hard-hit Long Island and in Nassau, Queens, Orange, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan and Ulster counties are not so lucky. Many of their water supplies have been contaminated by bacteria or chemicals in floodwater or compromised by power outages at treatment plants. See the full list of boil water and do-not-drink advisories on the New York State Department of Health website.
In neighboring New Jersey, that many consider to be hit the worst, 12 water systems or municipalities have issued such warnings.

"Disruptions to water supply treatment due to power outages and flooding can lead to serious health issues," said New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "It's important that our residents continue to stay informed so they can take measures to protect themselves and their families." The state posts details about advisories on the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management's Posterous blog.

The New Jersey Department of Health reminds residents that: "Consumption includes brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables and making beverages and ice. Tap water that has not been boiled may be used for showering, bathing, shaving and washing, so long as care is taken not to swallow or allow water in the eyes or nose or mouth."

Emergency Drinking Water and Other Storm Relief Supplies

As of November 4, Governor Cuomo waived bottle-deposit law requirements for companies wishing to donate drinking water to affected areas. Even the most prepared New Yorker may have run out of his or her 3-5 day supply of emergency drinking water by this time and stores are having trouble restocking shelves with bottled water or other emergency supplies.

For the nearest emergency shelter or supplies distribution center, consult Google's New York City Crisis Map.

Preparing for the Next Emergency

Berkey customers can confidently filter their water with gravity-driven Berkey systems, even without electricity. FEMA recommends keeping a minimum supply of drinkable water "3 gallons per person" on hand in case drinking water becomes compromised or unavailable. With Berkey water filters, your water supply is not limited to what you can store or carry. The black berkey filters have been shown to remove common contaminants, bacteria, and other microorganisms down to log-7 and non-detectable levels turning any available water into potable drinkable water. We may not be able to avoid this type of disaster again, but we can learn by preparing ourselves, our towns, and our states so that we better withstand such a devastating blow in the future.

For more tips on preparing for hurricanes or other natural disasters see our posts:

  • National Hurricane Preparedness Week with Berkey Filters and Wise Food Productsand
  • How Do Hurricanes Affect Drinking Water?
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