Floods May Contaminate Drinking Water (260)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Floods could leave “water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink” for some Tennesseans, a University of Tennessee water quality specialist said Tuesday.

 Tim Gangaware of UT-Knoxville’s Water Resources Research Center said recent floods across the state increase the risk of contaminated drinking water.

 “Floods can present problems from pathogens and harmful bacteria,” Gangaware said. “Any time you get high water, there is reason for concern.”

 Heavy rains trigger additional runoff from cattle lots, farm areas, industrial sites and storage ponds that pollute both surface and ground water sources, Gangaware said.

 Flood waters can also wash up or break buried water pipes. Some small water treatment plants are not equipped to handle increased river flow from flooding, he said.

The Mississippi River has reached its highest level in 60 years, cresting at 40.7 feet. It is expected to stay within a few inches of that mark for the next several days, and Wilkinson County, Miss., a “boil-water” notice was issued for customers of the Old River Water Association, which serves about 2,700 people.

 Tennessee officials report no water utilities have been contaminated from flooding.

 UT’s Water Resources Research Center is hosting a drinking water protection teleconference from 2-5 p.m., March 19, 413 UT Conference Center, 600 Henley St.

 Gangaware said the program is open to the public and will help communities make sure they have a safe drinking water supply.

 “During floods, its especially important to stay tuned to what your public health officials and utilities are saying about safety of your drinking water supply,” Gangaware said.

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 Contact: Tim Gangaware (423-974-7208)