Te Whatu Ora Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ankush Mittal, has issued an advisory warning in Northland asking people to stay out of waterways, flood waters and harbours and avoid contact with contaminated water. Always assume flood water will be contaminated by sewage.
This advice follows high rainfall for Northland causing flooding around the region. Up to date information on weather warnings and flood risks can be found at: https://www.metservice.com/warnings/home(external link)
After heavy rainfall, overflow from wastewater systems and other contaminants on land can be washed into our lakes, streams, rivers and coastal waters. Always assume any floodwater is contaminated. These contaminants can cause irritation or infection of our stomach, lungs, skin and eyes and pose a risk to our health.
The advice is to keep out of the water until it is clear (generally five days after the storm ends), do not swim or consume shellfish or wet fish caught in the storm area. Shellfish can remain contaminated for several weeks and so we advise people to avoid collecting shellfish for at least 28 days after the extreme event or until water testing indicates it is safer to do so. Water quality information is regularly updated at Safe Swim for common sites across Northland: https://safeswim.org.nz/(external link)
If you receive a reticulated water supply, follow any boil water notices from your local council, if they are issued. If you have a self-supply, ensure that your water collection systems remain clear of any debris before and after a severe weather event. If you collect water directed from a natural stream or lake, we advise you avoid water collection during severe rain events and until five (5) days after the storm ends and the water appears and smells clear.
Contact with Floodwater
People should avoid floodwater where possible and children should not play in it.
In addition to the danger of drowning and debris, floodwater may also be contaminated with sewage, faecal matter, farm run off and other hazardous materials and objects. There are many potential health risks from this, including gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting), skin infections and eye infections.
If you have contact with flood water, flooded property or items contaminated with flood water, you should wash your hands with soap and water and dry them thoroughly afterwards. You should also do this after going to the toilet and before preparing or eating any food. Throw away all food and drinking water that has come in contact with floodwater, including things stored in containers.
If you feel unwell after coming into contact with floodwater contact your doctor or call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116.
Food Safety During a Flood
Maintaining hygiene around food preparation and cooking is really important, as surfaces and utensils may have been contaminated during a flood.
If your property is damaged by floodwater, advice on managing any health and safety risks can be found at: