VDH urges caution in the water ahead of possible severe wet weather

Safety in the Storm

(WFXR) — Between the storm events forecasted across Virginia and the potential impact of Tropical Depression Fred this week, health officials say this could create dangerous recreational water conditions in creeks, rivers, and the areas along the coast.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) issued a reminder on Monday, Aug. 16 for people to take precautions ahead of severe weather. Then, once the sun comes out, beware of potential health risks before participating in recreational water activities.

“Heavy rains can increase the risk of animal waste and the potential release of inadequately treated wastewater from sewage treatment plants. Bacteria, debris, and other pollutants in rainwater runoff end up in rivers, lakes and streams, which can pose risks to human health and safety. Rain events also cause flooding and fast-moving waters, especially in low-lying areas.

The most common illnesses from contaminated water are gastrointestinal illnesses. This may cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or fever. These illnesses result from swallowing water contaminated by disease-causing microbiological organisms. Additionally, contact with contaminated water has the potential to cause upper respiratory (ear, nose, throat) and skin infections.”

Virginia Department of Health

If you plan to swim, wade, kayak, canoe, or go rafting in Virginia natural waters after heavy rain, first check out these safety tips from the VDH:

  • Avoid getting water in your mouth. Also, never swallow water from an untreated water source.
  • Don’t swim if you have broken skin because bacteria, viruses, and other organisms can infect wounds and cause more serious illness.
  • Shower with soap and water after recreating in natural waters.
  • Don’t swim when you are sick.
  • Avoid swimming if dead fish are present.
  • Use extreme caution and avoid unnecessary risks if you encounter covered roads or fast-moving waters because the water may be deeper and moving more quickly than you think.

Residents or facilities that provide water to the public — such as campgrounds, restaurants, summer camps, or daycares with private wells or septic systems — are also encouraged by health officials to take extra precautions in heavy rain and flooding just in case flood waters submerge wells or septic systems.

To check out more information and safety tips about emergencies involving private wells, click here.

If you need to find the location of local sewer treatment facilities, contact your local public works department.

For more information regarding recreation water safety tips — including the VDH’s “Safely Enjoy Virginia’s Natural Waters” brochure — follow this link.

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