Q&A On Water Use In Your HomeWBZ

You have Declared Your Curiosity about what you can and cannot do during the MWRA Water Emergency. Here are some answers according to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

David asked: Can we do laundry?

Yes, water does not have to be boiled to do laundry during a boil water order.

Barry in Boston wrote: If I have a water filtration system do I still need to boil water?

This answer is directly from the MassDEP website: “If the device is designed to improve the taste and odor or chemical quality of the water, such as activated carbon filters, it is still necessary to boil the water. Devices designed to disinfect the water such as UV light units, may be used as an alternative to boiling. If the water is cloudy, filtration may be required before disinfection. Check with the manufacturer if you are not certain.”

Sherry from Medford asked: What will happen if we’ve been drinking water throughout the night before knowing of the state of emergency?

Dr. Lauren Smith, the medical director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, says symptoms will be GI in nature. Meaning, diarrhea, cramps, and nausea. The MassDEP adds possible jaundice and associated headaches and fatigue. Dr. Smith says, though, that these symptoms would likely not occur for a week or so after ingesting the water. She says if these symptoms are noted, consult with your health care provider.

Kat writes: Why is it that you can shower with unsanitized water, but you must boil water to wash your hands?

Dr. Lauren Smith says that you should wash your hands with boiled or bottled water. However, if that is not possible, wash your hands with soap and water and use an antibacterial hand sanitizer afterwards. Fred Laskey, the executive director of MWRA, explains the water in the reservoir that is being used during the emergency is very much like lake water. “You’d swim in a lake, but you wouldn’t wash your hands in it,” he said Sunday morning.

John from Medford asked: Can I just use unboiled water for my coffee maker?

Health officials urge that you boil your water first or use bottled water. Coffee makers do not get water hot enough to kill all of the bacteria. Also, if the coffee maker is connected directly to the water source, it should not be used.

Kathy from Quincy writes: What about filtered water from the refrigerator dispenser? Is that safe to drink without boiling?

Any dispenser that is connected directly to your water supply should not be used while the boil water order is in place. Once the order has been lifted, those dispensers should be cleaned and sanitized according to the device’s operator’s manual.

Karen from Somerville wonders: You mentioned that we should not use dishwashers, but is it OK to wash dishes in the sink?

To clarify, we turn to the MassDEP website which says you can use your dishwasher if it has a sanitizing cycle. If it does not have a sanitizing cycle, you can wash dishes in the sink. MassDEP says wash the dishes as you normally would, but as a final step immerse the dishes for at least one minute in lukewarm water to which a teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water has been added. Then allow the dishes to completely air dry.

For further questions/answers, you can call 211. It is a toll free number that can be dialed from any phone in the state.

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