Stay Out of the Water: Floods Can Carry Debris, Disease

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By Mary Hightower, U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast
facts:

LITTLE
ROCK – Floods carry more danger than just high water volume and fast flow:
debris and disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella may be part
of the mix too.

Images
on social media show floodwater carrying rafts of debris such as branches and
litter. One photo on Twitter showed a syringe washing ashore amid pieces of
flotsam and jetsam. In addition, some municipal sewage treatment systems may
had have parts swamped by floodwaters.

“Flooding
can cause sewage systems to overflow, releasing pathogenic bacteria,” said Mike
Daniels, professor-water quality for the University of Arkansas System Division
of Agriculture. “Floodwaters can also interact with animal wastes and transport
pathogens too.”

John
Pennington, extension urban stormwater agent for the Division of Agriculture in
Jefferson County, said flooded areas need to be approached with a high level of
caution.

“I
can’t say for certain that Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility has sewage lift
stations underwater at this time, but at least some of the sewer system is
underwater,” he said.

According
to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “bacteria such as E. coli,
Salmonella, and Shigella, and viruses like Hepatitis A, tetanus, and agents of
typhoid can all be carried in flood water,” Pennington said. “Workers in flood
water need to make sure they don’t enter flood water if they have broken skin.
If they are entering a potentially contaminated area, workers should put on
rubber gloves, boots, waders and other protective clothing to prevent contact
with floodwaters.”  

Flooding
can also compromise well water.

“If a wellhead
has been submerged by flood waters, it is highly probable that contamination has
occurred, but if flooding has occurred nearby, then it is a good idea to have
the water supply tested to assure the water quality is still safe for humans
and livestock,” said Daniels. “If there’s any doubt about whether the quality
of a water supply, have it checked.”

The Cooperative
Extension Service has a fact sheet on what to do if flooding affects a well,
including corrective actions: http://bit.ly/WellFlood.

The
Arkansas Water Resources Center can conduct water testing. To find out how to
collect a sample, see: http://bit.ly/2W8RYL2.

Find
other flood resources here: http://bit.ly/2pyPR1o.

About
the Division of Agriculture

The
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to
strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted
research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment
Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture
conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant
education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20
entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75
counties in Arkansas and faculty on four system campuses.

The University of Arkansas
System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs
to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or
veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Tammy Teague

Tammy Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; 20+ years experience in the news.

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