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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.
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:
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. To reach NSF International, call 800-673-8010 or visit the NSF International website for more information.
If in doubt, you should boil your water or use bottled water even if you have a filtering system.
An advisory or notice will remain in effect until test samples show the water is safe to drink. Testing for bacteria requires 18 to 24 hours to complete, depending on the type of test used. 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 18 to 24 hours.
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.
By regulation, Williamsburg County Water Authority must follow certain public notification efforts, which include dissemination to media outlets, door-to-door notification, and any other means to notify water users.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC or DHEC), through the State Primary Drinking Water Regulation (R. 61-58), regulates water utilities and specifies instances when an advisory or notice must be issued.
An advisory must be issued in the following instances:
A Boil Water Notice must be issued under the following circumstances:
These situations are not the only times when an advisory or notice should be issued. Specific situations, upon consultation with DHEC, may also require an advisory or notice.
State drinking water regulations require DHEC to issue a Boil Water Advisory for the affected geographic areas before a Hurricane makes landfall. Because a hurricane may cause damage to the water system that may make the water unsafe to drink, and because the hurricane may disrupt methods of public notification after a storm, the advisory must be issued before the hurricane strikes.
After the storm, you should stay tuned to radio reports for further instructions. Williamsburg County Water Authority will dispatch crews to begin surveying damage and making repairs immediately after the storm. If sampling shows that the water has been contaminated by bacteria Williamsburg County Water Authority, will issue a Boil Water Notice; if tests show the water is safe to drink, Williamsburg County Water Authority will lift the advisory.
Williamsburg County Water Authority will issue a repeal of the advisory or notice when the water is safe to drink; stay tuned to radio and television stations for updates. Williamsburg County Water Authority will also post information on this website and post an automated message on the Customer Service phone menu system, which can be access by dialing 843-355-8997.
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:
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 may want to seek medical advice.
A Do Not Drink 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.