Boil Water Notices

A boil water notice is a public notification advising customers to boil tap water before consuming it. Boil water notices are issued when an event has occurred with the potential to adversely affect water quality, or a situation has occurred where there is known degradation of the water quality. There are two types of notices: the boil water advisory and the boil water order.

The Boil Water Advisory

This is a localized public notification informing the public of a need to boil water and providing other information that the public needs. A boil water advisory is a precautionary measure and is issued even when contamination is unlikely. This is the most common type of boil water notice and is issued when the water system experiences a loss in positive water pressure, typically due to a serious main break. Loss of water pressure creates the possibility of harmful bacteria entering the pipelines. Until laboratory tests confirm the water has not been contaminated, the boil water advisory remains in effect.

During a boil water advisory, SUB’s Water Division will:

  • Dispatch water crews to investigate the loss of pressure event.
  • Inform customers of the boil water advisory, typically by posting door hangers.
  • Take corrective action,
  • Collect water samples and send them to a lab for analysis.
  • Await lab results. This typically takes about 24 hours.
  • Lift the boil water advisory once final results are satisfactory.
  • Notify customers that the boil water advisory is lifted (typically via door hangers) and provide information on next steps.

During a boil water advisory, customers should do the following:

  • DO NOT DRINK THE WATER WITHOUT BOILING IT FIRST.
  • The safest and most effective method of water disinfection is to vigorously boil water for at least one full minute. Fill a pot with cold water and start timing when bubbles pop at the surface. Cool the water before using it for drinking, washing or tooth brushing.
  • Store the disinfected water in clean, covered containers.
  • Read Frequently Asked Questions below for more information on actions to take.
  • Until the boil water advisory is lifted, use either boiled water that has been cooled, or bottled water, for drinking, brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables, cleaning food contact surfaces, preparing food and baby formula, and for making ice.
  • Once the notice has been lifted: Resume normal water use without taking additional measures. If your water is cloudy or discolored, run your faucets for a few minutes until the water runs clear.

The Boil Water Order

When under a boil water order, SUB will instruct affected customers to boil their water in order to kill bacteria and other organisms in the water. Customers should continue to boil water until SUB declares that the boil water order has been lifted. The order will be lifted only after the situation is fully resolved and laboratory tests confirm the water is no longer contaminated.

During a boil water order, SUB’s Water Division will:

  • Immediately inform affected areas of the situation using various media, as appropriate. This may include door hangers, social media, traditional media, SUB’s website, and in some cases, automated calls to customer for whom we have phone numbers on file.
  • Dispatch water crews to investigate the cause.
  • Take corrective action. Water system problems of this type typically require a more intensive and widespread response than those needed for a boil water advisory.
  • Collect water samples and send them to a lab for analysis.
  • Await lab results. This typically takes about 24 hours.
  • The Oregon Health Authority will lift the boil water order once final results are satisfactory and SUB will communicate this to affected customers. Note that the duration of this type of notice may be longer than a boil water advisory.
  • Inform customers that the boil water order is lifted, typically via the same notification channels used to originally notify customers, and provide instructions on how to flush water lines. Note that this flushing process may be more rigorous than flushing instructions given for boil water advisories.

During a boil water order, customers should do the following:

  • DO NOT DRINK THE WATER WITHOUT BOILING IT FIRST.
  • The safest and most effective method of water disinfection is to vigorously boil water for at least one full minute. Fill a pot with cold water and start timing when steady streams of bubbles pop at the surface. Cool the water before using it for drinking, washing or tooth brushing.
  • Store the disinfected water in clean, covered containers.
  • Read Frequently Asked Questions below for more information on actions to take.
  • Until the boil water order is lifted, use either boiled water that has been cooled, or bottled water, for drinking, brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables, cleaning food contact surfaces, preparing food and baby formula, and for making ice.
  • Once the notice is lifted: Residents are advised to “flush” their water lines in order to clear plumbing of potentially contaminated water. Household and building water lines include interior and exterior faucets, showers, water and ice dispensers, water treatment units, etc. Please use the following guidelines:

Cold Water Faucets: Run all cold water faucets in your home at the same time for five full minutes with the highest water flow possible. Avoid splashing or flooding of the drains. If you have a single-lever faucet, set it to run the cold water first.

Hot Water Faucets: To clear hot-water pipes and your water heater, turn on all hot water faucets (or turn your single-lever faucets to the hot position) and run for a minimum of 15 minutes for a typical household 40-gallon hot-water tank. For an 80-gallon hot water tank or larger, run water for at least 30 minutes. Hot water is then safe to use for washing hands, and for hand-washing of dishes, pots and pans, etc. Remember, SUB recommends that you never use hot water for cooking or for preparing baby formula. Always start with cold water for these purposes.

Dishwashers: After flushing hot water pipes and your water heater, run your empty dishwasher one time.

Filters: Change all filters located at the tap or within an appliance.

Refrigerator water dispensers: Water dispensers from refrigerators should be flushed using at least one quart of water. If unsure of your dispenser’s capacity, refer to manufacturer specifications.

Ice cubes: To flush the automatic ice dispensers, make three batches of ice and discard.

Humidifiers: Discard any water used in humidifiers, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices, and oral, medical or health care devices. Rinse devices with clean water before using.

Food and baby formula: Discard baby formula and other foods prepared with water on the day(s) of the boil water notice.

Water Softeners: Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines specified in the owner’s manual.

Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Customers

Businesses located in an area where a boil water advisory or order has been issued, and that either serve the public or have employees working on site, must immediately put in place alternate procedures to provide water service:

  • Discontinue the use of tap water.
  • Boiled water can be used. Water that is chemically disinfected in the facility is not allowed.
  • Alternative sources of safe water must be provided for drinking, cooking, washing food or surfaces that come in contact with food, and for any other purpose that could result in water being ingested.
  • The facility must be closed if alternative sources of safe water are unavailable.

Facilities licensed by Lane County Environmental Health

Licensed facilities should follow Oregon Health Authority’s Emergency Response Guidelines during a boil water advisory or order if tap water is biologically contaminated. When a boil water advisory or order is issued, a health inspector will contact the facility to ensure operations include appropriate alternative procedures.

Critical Facilities

Critical facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes that cannot be closed must contact Lane County Public Health for assistance with operations during a boil water advisory or order. Critical facilities should immediately implement Emergency Response Guidelines for licensed facilities until a health inspector arrives.

For more information about Lane County Environmental Health requirements for commercial, industrial and institutional customers, call 541-682-4480 during business hours or 541-682-4041 after hours.

Frequently Asked Questions on Boil Water Notices

What does a boil water notice mean?
A boil water notice means tap water should not be used for drinking, cooking, washing dishes, washing food preparation areas, nor for ice-making until tests verify the water is safe. Tests typically take 24 hours. In the meantime, tap water should be boiled to kill any microorganisms that may be present.

How will I be notified of a boil water notice?
SUB will notify customers if a boil water notice has been issued in their area. Depending on the number of customers and the size of geographical area affected, a boil water notice will be communicated via one or more of the following methods:

  • Door hanger
  • Press Release to TV and radio
  • Automated call-out for customers with a phone number on file
  • Social media
  • SUB’s website

How do I update my contact information?
Call SUB at 541-746-8451 and tell the Customer Service Representative you would like to make sure the phone number associated with your account is correct.

What kinds of tests are done? Why does it take so long to get test results?
SUB technicians collect water samples using specific procedures that ensure accurate testing. Tests typically take 24 hours. This allows a commercial laboratory time to incubate the samples, a step that is required to grow bacteria if any are present.

SANITIZING WATER

How long should water be boiled?
Follow the steps below for the safest and most effective method of water disinfection.

  • Fill a pot with water.
  • Heat the water until bubbles break the surface.
  • Once the water reaches a rolling boil, let it boil for 1 minute.
  • Turn off the heat source and let the water cool.
  • Pour water into a clean container with a cover for storage.

I don’t like the taste of boiled water.  What can I do?
To improve the taste of boiled water you can:

  • Pour cooled boiled water back and forth from one clean glass or container into another to add air to the water, or
  • Let the water stand for a few hours, or
  • Add a pinch of salt to each quart of boiled water.

How does boiling water make it safe to drink?
Disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites are destroyed by high, sustained heat. Boiling does not remove them from the water, but it does kill them, preventing them from causing illness.

I cannot boil my water. How do I disinfect my water to make it safe to drink?
Follow the steps below to properly disinfect water for drinking, cooking and/or brushing teeth.

If tap water is clear:

  • Use unscented bleach (bleach that does not have an added scent).
  • Add ⅛ teaspoon (8 drops or about 0.75 milliliters) of unscented household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
  • Mix well and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.
  • Store disinfected water for up to 5 days in a clean container with a cover. Water used after this time needs to be disinfected once again.

If tap water is cloudy:

  • Pour through a clean cloth or coffee filter.
  • Use unscented bleach (bleach that does not have an added scent).
  • Add ¼ teaspoon (16 drops or 1.5 milliliters) of unscented household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
  • Mix well and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.
  • Store disinfected water for up to 5 days in a clean container with a cover. Water used after this time needs to be disinfected once again.

SANITIZING CONTAINERS

Containers may need to be sanitized before using them to store disinfected water:
To sanitize containers:

  • Use unscented bleach (bleach that does not have an added scent).
  • Make a sanitizing solution by mixing 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of unscented household liquid bleach in 1 quart (32 ounces, 4 cups or about 1 liter) of water.
  • Pour this sanitizing solution into a clean storage container and shake well, making sure that the solution coats the entire inside of the container.
  • Let the clean storage container sit at least 30 seconds, and then pour the solution out of the container.
  • Let the empty container air dry or rinse it with clean water that has already been made safe, if available.

Never use a container to store drinking water if it previously stored milk, fruit juice or any toxic solid or liquid chemicals. If disinfected water has been stored for more than five days, follow the steps listed above to re-disinfect it before use.

Should I use bottled water?
You may choose to use bottled water if it is available.

FOOD AND BEVERAGES

What should I do about preparing food and beverages?  How should I wash fruit, vegetables and food preparation surfaces?
Wash fruits and vegetables with boiled water that has cooled, or use bottled water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute before adding food to cook. Use boiled water when preparing drinks, such as coffee, tea and lemonade. Wash food preparation surfaces with boiled water.

Can I use water directly from the tap for making coffee, tea, or frozen juice?
No. Water intended for drinking must be vigorously boiled for at least a full minute before being used to brew coffee or tea, or being mixed with formula, drink concentrates or juices.

What should I do about feeding my baby?

  • If you breastfeed, continue to do so. If you use or supplement with baby formula:
  • Use ready-to-use baby formula, if possible.
  • Prepare powdered or concentrated baby formula with bottled water. Use boiled water if you do not have bottled water. Disinfect water for baby formula if you cannot boil your water or don’t have access to bottled water (see above for directions on how to use bleach to disinfect water).
  • Wash and sterilize bottles and nipples with boiled or disinfected water before use.
  • If you cannot sterilize bottles, use single-serve, ready-to-feed bottles.

Can I use my coffee maker, ice machine, and water from my refrigerator or soda dispenser?
Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water lines.  This includes the water and ice dispensers in your refrigerator/freezer.  Use boiled, bottled or disinfected water to make ice — freezing does not disinfect water.  If a boil water order was issued, consult the owner’s manual to find out how to sanitize appliances after the boil order is lifted. This is not necessary for customers under a boil water advisory unless SUB notifies customers to the contrary.

I have a water filter – doesn’t that protect me?
Water filters in refrigerators and pitchers do not remove bacteria. For under-sink filters, read the manual or check with your installer to determine the filter’s bacteria-removal capabilities. If in doubt, boil the water.

Is it safe to use a dishwasher?
Household dishwashers generally are safe to use if the water reaches a final rinse temperature of at least 150°F or if the dishwasher has a sanitizing cycle.

  • To wash dishes by hand:
  • Wash and rinse the dishes as you normally would using hot water.
  • In a separate basin, add 1 teaspoon of unscented household liquid bleach for each gallon of warm water.
  • Soak the rinsed dishes in the water for at least 1 minute.
  • Let the dishes air dry completely.

HYGIENE

Can I do laundry?
It is safe to wash clothes in tap water while under a boil water advisory or order.

Can I use tap water to brush my teeth?
No.  Use boiled, bottled or disinfected water to brush your teeth.

Is it safe to take a shower or bath?
Yes, it is safe to take a bath or shower, but be careful not to swallow any water. Use caution when bathing babies and young children. Consider giving them a sponge bath to reduce the chance they might swallow water.

Can I shave?
Yes, you can shave as usual.

HEALTH

What if I drank from the tap accidentally or before I learned about the boil water notice?
If you accidentally drink tap water, don’t panic – the chances of becoming ill are slim.  If you do get sick, the symptoms are similar to food poisoning: nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and possibly a mild fever.

What should I do if I have symptoms?
First and foremost, avoid dehydration. If symptoms occur, drink plenty of disinfected fluids to prevent dehydration. Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as soda, coffee and tea because caffeine is a diuretic and causes people to lose water. If you are concerned about your health or the health of a family member, contact your health care provider or Lane County Health and Human Services.

HOUSEHOLD INFORMATION

Can I water my plants with tap water? 

Tap water is safe for house plants and outdoor irrigation of ornamental plants.

Is it safe to give pets tap water?
Many pets are susceptible to the same diseases as humans and can transmit the diseases to their owners’ families. Provide them with boiled or bottled water.

Do I need to worry about my fish or aquatic pets (e.g., reptiles, frogs)?
Most germs that infect people do not infect reptiles or fish. If you must fill your fish tank while under a boil water advisory or order, check the water’s chlorine levels, which may or may not change slightly. Contact your local pet store or veterinarian for more advice.

When I turn on the faucet, the water sputters.  Why?
This is caused by air in water lines, and is likely a result of repairs SUB is making to the system.  Turn on your tap slowly and run the water until the sputtering stops.

When I turn on the faucet the water is discolored. What should I do?
Flush water pipes by running the water until it is clear.  Do not wash clothes if the water is discolored.  Wait until the water runs clear at the tap.  Wash a load of dark clothes first.

What should I do if my water pressure is low?
Check the faucet screens for trapped particles.  Remove the screens and clean out any particles.  Put the screens back on the faucet.