Stay safe: Advisories on power, water and food
Updated 5:31 pm, Thursday, September 1, 2011
Westport officials have issued these advisories for people still coping with the impact of Tropical Storm Irene.
RESTORING ELECTRIC SERVICE
If the electrical service at a home was disrupted by a tree that fell on the owner's property, the owner should contact a state-licensed electrician and have damage from the storm inspected and repaired if necessary, according to the town's Building Department.
The electrician should then contact the Building Department, which will alert Connecticut Light & Power to re-activate electric service.
People are warned not to go near any downed wires, because even though they may be inactive, they may become energized again at any moment, officials said.
If a house suffered water damage that damaged the electrical system, including the circuit-breaker panel, electric appliances or outlets, the owner should contact an electrician to evaluate the wiring before the power company activates service. Sometimes switching off affected circuits is sufficient, however, where more severe damage took place the main breaker should be switched off until repairs can be made.
Questions should be directed to the Westport Building Department at 203-341-5025. After hours and weekends, leave a message and someone will call back.
WATER, FOOD PRECAUTIONS
People whose potable water is drawn from a private wells on their property should have the water tested if the well was flooded, according to Mark Cooper, director of the Westport Weston Health District. Drinking contaminated water may cause illness, he said, adding that people should not assume that well water in a flooded area is safe to drink.
The Environmental Health Section of the state Department of Public Health also recommends that homes with private wells flooded or damaged by the storm should be considered as likely
Additionally, private wells with water that is unusually discolored or has a different odor than normal may have been compromised by surface water and may also be contaminated, he indicated. Wells suspect of contamination should be flushed, disinfected and tested for bacteria before use. Private well homeowners can access information concerning the management of private wells and a video on the disinfection process at http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3115&q=485266 and http://www.ct.gov/dph/floods.
Contaminated well water should not be used for human or animal consumption until it has been tested for bacteria, Cooper said. The state agency is referring callers to their local health department to clarify questions about private well contamination and disinfection. If the public or local officials have more questions about well treatment and/or clean-up, call the Private Well Program at 860-509-7296.
Information on testing is available also at the WWHD website, www.wwhd.org.
Homeowners who have not had power for more than a few hours should take note of safety considerations regarding refrigerated foods. As a general rule, refrigerated items should be safe if power is not out for more than four hours. A full freezer should keep foods safe for about two days.
Cold foods that have exceeded 40 degrees should be thrown away, Cooper indicated. Foods that need to be maintained hot that have fallen below a temperature of 140 degrees also should be thrown away.
Cooper warned residents not to trust their eyes and sense of smell to determine whether foods may be safe to eat. Food may be unsafe even if it doesn't smell bad or even if it looks safe. "When in doubt, throw it out" is a guideline he recommends.
More specific information on food safety and/or how to disinfect flooded wells is available at the Westport Weston Health District's website, www.wwhd.org.