With the floods comes the dirt and often drinking water pipes are also damaged. Is it still safe to drink the tap water? When should it be boiled – and who will inform them about it?
In many places, the drinking water supply was interrupted in areas affected by the flooding. Some places still do not have running water from the tap. This is currently the case in the city of Stolberg near Aachen.
The pipes there are easily torn away or damaged, said a spokeswoman for the local water supplier. The water in Stolberg should be boiled before use in the areas where it runs again.
Also, in the district of Mettmann, in Mülheim an der Ruhr, parts of Oberhausen and Bottrop, there was a boiling requirement due to contamination and the extreme chlorine treatment of the water. The district of Euskirchen also recommends boiling drinking water. (Status: 19.07.)
If the drinking water supply is interrupted, water trucks or helpers come with mineral water “six-packs”.
Did the floods in Germany contaminate drinking water?
If water pipes are damaged by floods, dirt, intestinal bacteria or coli bacteria from the environment can get in and contaminate the drinking water. Because then there is a high probability that sewage pipes are also damaged and everything will mix into a broth.
The local health authorities permanently monitor the drinking water with measurements. As long as there is no official warning from the local health authorities that you should boil tap water before use, you can drink it, cook with it or wash yourself with it.
The warning is issued via newspaper or online reports, the federal NINA warning app or (where the internet and power have failed) via loudspeaker announcements or leaflets / notices.
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What should you do if there is a drinking water warning?
- Boil the water bubbly for three minutes – no bacteria can survive this!
- Let the water cool down and then use it for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, washing fruit or showering. You should refrain from showering or bathing with tap water on small children or sick people until the warning has been cleared. Bacteria can enter the body through the mouth, mucous membranes or open wounds.
- You can run the washing machine or dishwasher without any problems due to the high temperatures.
- If the house well has overflowed, the water should be boiled until the well is operating as intended again and the water samples are in order.
- You should also boil drinking water for pets.
After a flood, the drinking water often smells more and more of chlorine. This is a consequence of the precautionary action taken by water suppliers who use chlorine to disinfect drinking water. According to the Federal Environment Agency, they want to kill germs or prevent contamination. The added chlorine is not harmful to health and evaporates quickly.
What is the current drinking water situation in flood areas in Germany?
The State Environment Agency (LANUV) in North Rhine-Westphalia expects that heating oil, diesel and other pollutants will be washed into watercourses as a result of the floods. On Thursday – shortly after the flood – the first oil streaks were discovered on the Rhine near Bad Honnef. The reason is probably primarily torn open heating oil tanks and fuels from the cars that were washed away. Gas stations were also flooded and damaged.
On Sunday, authorities blocked the Wuppertalsperre in the Oberbergischer Kreis. The German Press Agency reported that “various substances, including oil” had leaked from flooded plants. The Wupperverband therefore currently prohibits recreational use of the dam. Boat tours, fishing, swimming and diving are prohibited.