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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Boil Water Advisory? Is it the same as a Boil Water Notice?

A Boil Water Advisory (BWA) is a public statement advising customers to boil tap water before consuming it. Advisories are issued when an event has occurred allowing the possibility for the water distribution system to become contaminated. An advisory does not mean that the water is contaminated, but rather that it could be contaminated; because the water quality is unknown, customers should assume the water is unsafe to drink and take the appropriate precautions. An advisory is different from a Boil Water Notice, which is issued when contamination is confirmed in the water system. During a notice, all customers must boil their water before consuming it or use bottled water.

What should I do during a Boil Water Advisory or Notice?

You should boil tap water vigorously for at least one full minute prior to using it for drinking or cooking (the minute starts when the water begins to bubble). This includes water used for brushing teeth, making ice, washing raw foods, preparation of drinks, and water for pets.   Wait for the water to cool before using it, or store it in the refrigerator in a clean container. Boiling removes harmful bacteria in the water that may cause illness. You should throw away ice made during the time the advisory or notice was issued, as freezing does not kill bacteria.

After an advisory or notice has been lifted (if contamination of the water system did occur), you should flush household pipes, ice makers, water fountains, etc. prior to using for drinking or cooking. Flushing simply means letting the water run to ensure that no contaminated water remains in your pipes. Follow the these guidelines for flushing:

  • Run all cold water faucets in your home for one minute
  • To flush automatic ice makers, make three batches of ice and discard
  • Run drinking water fountains for one minute
  • Run water coolers with direct water connections for five minutes

Do I still need to boil my water if I have a filter system on my faucet or refrigerator?

Most point-of-use (POU) filters are designed to improve the aesthetics of water (improve taste and odor), not remove harmful bacteria. You can learn about the capability of your filter by contacting the manufacturer or NSF International, an independent testing group located in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Ph. 1-800-673-8010). If in doubt, you should boil your water or use bottled water even if you have a filtering system.

Is the water safe for washing dishes, laundry, and bathing?

The water is safe for washing dishes, but you should use hot, soapy water (you may add one tablespoon of bleach per gallon as a precaution) and rinse dishes in boiled water. There are no restrictions on doing laundry.   The water is also safe for bathing during an advisory or notice.

How long must a Boil Water Advisory or Notice be in effect?

An advisory or notice will remain in effect until test samples show the water is safe to drink. Testing for bacteria requires 24 hours to complete. The samples are incubated to actually grown bacteria, if any are present. As a result, advisories and notices will be in effect for at least 24 hours.

What are total coliform bacteria?

Total coliform bacteria are a collection of microorganisms that live in large numbers in the intestines of humans and animals, as well as in most soils and surface water. A sub-group of these microorganisms is the fecal coliform bacteria, the most common member being E coli. These bacteria occur naturally in lakes and streams, but indicate that the water is contaminated with human or animal waste and therefore may pose a health risk to people who drink it.   The water treatment process removes these bacteria from the water, but events such as a water main break or a loss of pressure in the water distribution system may allow these bacteria to enter water lines through cracks in pipes or back-siphoning from a residential plumbing system.   Boiling water vigorously for one minute will kill these bacteria and make water safe to drink.

How will I be notified if my home/business is affected by an advisory or notice?

The City of Moncton will provide notification by hand delivered bilingual letter or, in the case where larger areas are affected, notification through media outlets.

Under what circumstances will Moncton issue a Boil Water Advisory or Notice?

The New Brunswick Departments of Health and Environment, regulate water utilities and specify instances when an advisory or notice must be issued.

An advisory may be issued in the following instances:

  • If untreated water reaches the distribution system
  • Loss of pressure in the entire distribution system or a significant portion of the system
  • A water main break where dirt and debris have entered the distribution piping
  • A Boil Water Notice must be issued under the following circumstances:
  • When test samples indicate the presence of E-coli bacteria.

These situations are not the only times when an advisory or notice may be issued. Specific situations, upon consultation with the Department of Health may require an advisory or notice.

How will I know when the advisory or notice has been lifted?

Moncton will issue a repeal of the advisory or notice when the water is safe to drink. Moncton will also post information on its web site.

Since an advisory is a precautionary measure, will I get sick if I drink the water? What if I drank some water before I found out about the advisory?

Until test results show the water is safe to drink, you should not drink the water without boiling it first. During an advisory, chances are, if you are in good health, you will not get sick from drinking the water; however, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems should not drink the water until it is deemed safe to drink. Symptoms of illness caused by bacteria in the water may include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. Please note that these symptoms are not caused only by organisms in drinking water. If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you should seek medical advice.

What are a Do Not Consume Notice and a Do Not Use Notice?

A Do Not Consume Notice will be issued when the water contains a chemical contaminant that cannot be removed by boiling. In this case, bottled water should be used for drinking or cooking.

A Do Not Use Notice will be issued if there is a contaminant in the water that may be inhaled or otherwise harmful on contact.