BATON ROUGE—The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals advises people to avoid contact with floodwaters following Tropical Storm Ida. Residents of areas affected by Ida are advised to keep the following tips in mind if flooding has occurred in their area:
1. Keep an Eye Out for Rising Waters
Weather radar is showing heavy, or extremely heavy, rainfall in parts of the area. This will cause street flooding. Just a few inches of moving water can be enough to sweep you off of your feet. Water only a few feet deep can cause a vehicle to float off the roadway, so do not drive or walk into flooded streets. In the dark, it will be even more difficult to tell how deep water is.
Please stay inside. Do not make things more difficult for rescue personnel than what they already are. Continue to monitor your local TV and radio stations for further details.
2. Don't Wade or Swim in Contaminated Floodwaters
There is always the possibility that heavy rains or other major storm activity will cause sewage treatment systems (both community and residential) to fail. Sewage disposal ponds and cattle and swine lagoons can also overflow, potentially exposing area residents to disease-causing bacteria.
Therefore, residents should not deliberately enter floodwater. It is also important to keep an eye on children and make sure they do not attempt to swim in a flooded area. Do not ever, under any circumstances, drink or ingest floodwater.
If people do come in contact with floodwater, they should bathe and wash their clothes with hot, soapy water immediately afterward.
3. Septic Tanks Could be Affected by Floodwater
Health officials say that flooding will keep septic systems and other residential sewage disposal systems from operating correctly until the floodwaters recede. Homeowners should take the following steps if their septic tank system has failed:
· Avoid using the home's plumbing system if the septic tank or the drain field is still underwater.
· Do not use the plumbing system if sewage is backing up into the house.
· Try to reduce the amount of debris entering the septic tank and plumbing systems.
· Avoid contact with the sewage from malfunctioning septic tanks - raw sewage is a public health problem and can cause disease.
· Avoid contact with electrical wiring and electrical components of mechanical sewage treatment systems.
Officials warn that some systems may be so damaged that repairs will be required before they will work again. Significant health problems associated with a residential sewage disposal system that does not work are the release of untreated sewage onto the top of the ground, into streams and bayous, or into stagnant pools left behind by flooding.
For more information about how to deal with failed residential sewage systems contact your parish health unit.
4. Cleaning Homes Contaminated with Sewage
People whose homes are flooded should assume everything touched by floodwater is contaminated with bacteria and will have to be disinfected. Most cleanup can be done with household cleaning products such as bleach or antibacterial products. Residents are advised to wash their hands frequently during cleanup and always wear rubber gloves.