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Department of Health Services

Public Health Division

For Immediate Release

Sonoma County Issues Public Health Advisory in Response to Winter Storm Hazards

SANTA ROSA, CA | January 08, 2023

En español

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase today issued a Public Health Advisory in response to potential high-water hazards from the winter storms. The guidance is intended to keep the public safe as rising creek and river levels have the potential to flood residential areas, bringing hidden dangers and the risk of contaminating food and water supplies.

Health information about floodwaters

Swimming and water sports should be avoided in floodwaters, which may be moving swiftly, and may contain pathogens and debris. Floodwaters contain many things that may harm health, including:

  • Downed power lines
  • Human and livestock waste
  • Household, medical, and industrial hazardous waste (chemical, biological, and radiological)
  • Coal ash waste that can contain carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic, chromium, and mercury
  • Other contaminants that can lead to illness
  • Physical objects such as lumber, vehicles, and debris
  • Wild or stray animals such as rodents and snakes

Exposure to contaminated floodwater can cause:

  • Wound infections
  • Skin rash
  • Gastrointestinal illness
  • Tetanus

It is important to protect yourself from exposure to floodwater regardless of the source of contamination. The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water. If you come in contact with floodwater:

  • Wash the exposed areas with soap and clean water as soon as possible. If you don’t have soap or water, use alcohol-based wipes or sanitizer.
  • Take care of wounds and seek medical attention if necessary.

Food Safety

The following guidance will help keep food safe during and after a flood, when household hazardous waste may be present in waterways:

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water.
  • Discard any food and beverage that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water.
  • Discard any food in damaged cans.
  • Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available.

Baby Formula

  • For infants, try to use prepared, canned baby formula that requires no added water. Otherwise, dilute any concentrated baby formula in reconditioned, all-metal containers with clean drinking water.

Keep Water Safe

Follow these steps to keep drinking water safe during and after flood conditions:

  • Only use water from a safe source for drinking and washing or preparing food.
  • Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters, if it is available.
  • If you don’t have bottled water, you should boil or disinfect water to make it safe.
  • If you have a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact Sonoma County Environmental Health at 565-6565.

How to Boil or Disinfect Water to Make It Safe

If the water is cloudy, first filter it through clean cloths, or allow it to settle and then draw off the clear water for boiling/ disinfecting. Then, follow one of these two procedures. Only do this as a last resort.

  • Boiling
    • Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present.
    • Boil the water for one minute.
    • Let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.
  • Disinfecting with bleach
    • Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water.
    • Add 1/8 teaspoon (or eight drops) of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
    • Stir it well and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before you use it.
    • Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.


Contact Information

Matt Brown, Communications Specialist
575 Administration Drive, Suite 104A Santa Rosa, CA 95403
(707) 565-3040