March 2022: Dunbible (NSW). Boil Water Alert

NSW residents urged to boil tap water as expert warns catastrophic floods could lead to raw sewage contamination

March 2 2022:

New South Wales residents have been urged to boil their tap water as wild weather and heavy rain inundate the state, contaminating flood water with raw sewage.

NSW Health is urging residents in parts of the state to avoid drinking unboiled tap water as wild weather and flash flooding continues across Australia’s east coast.

Record levels of rain have inundated parts of Queensland and NSW as heavy downpours engulf the east coast – flooding homes, breaking sewage systems and leaving cars submerged.

A boil water alert has been issued for residents in Richmond Valley Council (Casino and surrounds) and Tweed Shire council (Uki and South Murwillumbah/Dunbible).

Director of the Australian Graduate School of Engineering at UNSW Professor Stuart Khan says floodwaters inundating these areas are “almost always” highly contaminated.

“Floodwaters contain lots of organic carbon and sediment, which is picked up from erosion of riverbanks and other overland flow,” he told

“In urban areas, floods fill sewers and cause them to overflow, so flood waters also quickly become contaminated with raw sewage.

“When this occurs, bacteria and viruses from sewage create public health risks for anyone who comes into contact with untreated flood waters.”

Prof Khan says anyone who comes into contact with untreated flood waters is at risk of contracting illnesses including gastro, skin infections and ear infections.

The northern NSW town of Mullumbimby is experiencing a water shortage after its water treatment plant was knocked out by catastrophic floods.

The Byron Shire Council says they are working to tank fresh water supplies into the town but encourages residents to “heed to water restrictions”.

Prof Khan says the demand for clean water can be “very high” as parts of the state clean up following the deluge.

“When reduced water supply occurs at the same time as increased water demand, this exacerbates the risk of shortages,” he said.

“Any drinking water supply that significantly loses pressure during a flood is at risk of contamination by floodwaters.

“If there is concern that this may have occurred, people should avoid drinking tap water unless they are able to boil it first.”

NSW Health says water used for drinking or food preparation should be brought to a rolling boil and allowed to cool completely before refrigerating in a clean container with a lid.

Bottled water or cool boiled water should be used for drinking, washing uncooked food (salad, fruit), making ice, cleaning teeth, gargling and for pet’s drinking water.

Dishes should be washed in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher and children should take bottled water or cool boiled water to school.