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Answering your questions about JEA’s boil water advisory

(Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images) (2009 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With parts of St. Johns County under a boil water advisory heading into Thanksgiving, questions have cropped up about how to safely use water, either for household chores or holiday meal prep.

But even though JEA issued a boil water notice after one of its wells registered a positive hit Monday for E. coli, direct answers to seemingly straightforward questions were hard to come by during interviews with utility representatives.

On Wednesday, News4Jax asked Kevin Holbrooks, JEA’s director of lab services, if it’s safe for people to brush their teeth or bathe with tap water. Holbrooks referred customers to the boil water notice, a response echoed by a JEA spokesperson.

The only problem? While JEA’s advisory recommends that customers boil any water they plan to prepare food with or drink, it does not directly address questions about using household appliances, personal hygiene habits and other daily activities.

Fortunately, the Department of Environmental Protection was more forthcoming. Provided the same set of questions asked of JEA, the state agency had clear, direct answers. Another helpful resource was Nassau Amelia Utilities in Nassau County.

Without further ado, here are your frequently asked questions:

Can residents brush their teeth or bathe with tap water?

Residents should use either boiled or bottled water when brushing teeth. Showering is safe, as long as residents take care not to ingest the water while shower. Those with open wounds or immunity issues may want to consider bathing with boiled water, according to Nassau Amelia Utilities.

What about ice in the freezer? Is that safe to use?

All ice should be either made with boiled or bottled water. Nassau Amelia Utilities suggests turning off your ice maker until the notice is lifted and clearing your ice try several times to flush the water line.

Do you have to run your water for a certain amount of time after the advisory is lifted?

After the advisory is lifted you may resume your normal water usage.

Once water reaches a boiling point, can residents use it for Thanksgiving food prep?

Once water has been brought to a rolling boil for one minute, it may be used in food preparation or other types of consumption.

Is it safe to use a dishwasher?

Most dishwashers do not reach high enough temperatures to kill bacteria, so dishes should be washed in boiled water. You also can wash with tap water and rinse dishes for a minute in a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach and a gallon of tap water. Allow dishes to completely air dry.

What about laundry?

It is safe to wash clothes in tap water.

Is it safe to give pets tap water?

Many pets, such as dogs, are susceptible to the same diseases as humans and can transmit the diseases to their families. Give them boiled or bottled water.


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