Officials with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) have received reports of fuel spills and potential sewage releases in areas that continue to be affected by standing floodwater, including Lindenhurst and several other low-lying areas of the County flooded by Hurricane Sandy.
Health Services officials said flooded areas pose environmental health concerns and that these areas should be assumed to be potentially contaminated until further notice.
Residents in flooded areas are advised to avoid contact with residual floodwaters. If contact is unavoidable, protective clothing should be worn, such as hip waders, rubber boots and rubber gloves. Protective clothing should be left out of living areas after use, and post-exposure personal hygiene should occur as soon as possible. Children should avoid exposure to floodwaters at all times.
Health officials said boiling water is not an effective solution if residents suspect potential contamination from fuel or other chemicals.
In addition, Health Services officials said standing flood water can be a source of diseases such as tetanus. Those exposed should ensure that tetanus immunizations (Tdap) are up to date. Exposure to fuel can lead to respiratory problems due to inhalation and to skin conditions due to direct contact.
If local residents notice fuel spills by seeing it in the water, smell fuel or are notified by official notification they should leave the area and follow evacuation orders. Questions may be directed to the Public Health Hotline 631-787-2200.
The SCDHS is coordinating initial response and recovery with municipalities, local emergency response authorities, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH). SCDHS will be verifying reports of problems to the extent possible.
Reports of fuel discharge should be made to NYSDEC at 1-800-457-7362. NYSDEC will manage fuel problems through its Spills Program and has deployed teams to respond to reported problems. SCDHS will provide surveillance inspectors to assist NYSDEC. Reports of suspected sewage contamination or damage to sewage systems should be provided to SCDHS at 631-852-5900.
Once it is safe to return, basic hygiene is very important. Always wash your hands with soap and water before eating and after toilet use, cleanup activities or handling items contaminated by floodwater or sewage. Wash water should be from a safe public water supply or an acceptable alternative (e.g., bottled water, or a safe private well which has not been impacted by floodwaters).