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The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is alerting customers of the Westerly Water System that they should boil their water before consuming it because of a water main break that could cause loss of water pressure in multiple areas of the water system. (This announcement is unrelated to COVID-19.)
All water used for consumption should be boiled vigorously for at least one minute. This recommendation pertains to water used for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation. Alternatively, customers can use bottled water. Infants and young children should not be bathed in this water because they may swallow it accidentally. Anyone else using this water for bathing or showering should be careful to avoid swallowing the water.
Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Additional guidance is available online. RIDOH is communicating guidance to restaurants and other food establishments in the area. (Guidance for food establishments is also available online.)
Water main breaks can cause low, or no, water pressure, especially at buildings in higher elevations. Low or no pressure increases the risk of contamination that can enter through cracks in the pipes or in areas without proper backflow preventers. Customers should continue to boil their water until the Westerly Water Department repairs the water main break, increases the chlorine in the system (within safe levels), flushes the pipes, and collects one day of bacteria samples at each routine sampling location, as long as the samples are absent of bacteria. An announcement will be made when the advisory is lifted. Water system administrators are currently alerting customers about this advisory and will alert customers when it is lifted.
If the water becomes contaminated with human or animal waste, microbes in these wastes can cause short-term health effects, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems.
A health care provider should be contacted if someone is on this water systems and has diarrhea and any of the following symptoms:
- Fever over 101.5° F, measured orally
- Blood in the stool
- Prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)
- Signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up
- Diarrheal illness that lasts more than 3 days.
Customers with questions can call Bill Beauregard, Assistant Director of Public Works, at 401-741-7589.