California has received heavy rainfall during recent atmospheric rivers, which has left flooding along roadways, urban areas, rivers, creeks and streams.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s unknown what precisely could be in floodwaters and that they may contain many things that are harmful. According to the CDC, floodwaters can contain:
- Downed power lines
- Human and livestock waste
- Household, medical, and industrial hazardous waste
- Coal ash waste that can contain carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic, chromium, and mercury
- Other contaminants that can lead to illness
- Physical objects such as lumber, vehicles, and debris
- Wild or stray animals such as rodents and snakes
If you ever become exposed to contaminated floodwater, it can cause wound infections, skin rash, gastrointestinal illness, tetanus, and leptospirosis, according to the CDC.
Federal health officials said leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals, is not common.
If exposed to floodwater, the CDC said to wash your skin with soap and water and wash your clothes in hot water and detergent before reusing them.
If you need to enter floodwater, the CDC said to wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles.
Returning to a property that flooded
Residents should take precautions when returning to a property that has been flooded, as building damage may have occurred.
According to Sacramento County, some private septic systems, water wells, and other small water systems at residences and businesses can be contaminated by floodwater.
If you suspect well water to be contaminated by floodwater, the county said to not use or drink it. Until the water is safe to drink, the county recommends boiling water for at least a minute or using bottled water.
As for food potentially coming in contact with floodwater, the county said to not eat it and discard it if it’s not in a waterproof container. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps.
Undamaged canned food can be saved, but labels need to be removed, washed with soap and water, and rinsed. Damaged canned foods show swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or denting.
Cardboard juice, milk, baby formula boxes, and home canned foods need to be discarded if they come in contact with floodwaters because the county said they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
If your fridge or freezer was submerged by floodwaters, even partially, the county said it is unsafe to use and must be discarded. Refrigerated foods that have been at temperatures over 41 degrees for more than four hours should not be eaten, according to the county.