VDH asks people to be cautious of contaminated water ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa

Heavy rainfall may increase the chance for contaminated water


With Tropical Storm Elsa expected to impact parts of the Commonwealth in the upcoming week, VDH is urging folks to be aware of the potential health risks before participating in any recreational water activities.

Officials say that heavy rains can increase the risk of animal waste and potentially release inadequately treated wastewater from sewage treatment plants.

The storm can also cause bacteria, debris and other rainwater pollutants to end up in rivers, lakes and streams across Virginia.

If water is ingested, the VDH said the most common illnesses linked to contaminated water are gastrointestinal illnesses, which may cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain or a fever.

However, any contact with contaminated water can potentially lead to skin infections or upper respiratory infections in the ear, nose or throat.

The VDH provided guidelines for those planning to swim, wade, kayak, canoe or go rafting in natural waters in the Commonwealth following heavy rain.

Here are some tips from the VDH:

  • Avoid getting water in your mouth and never swallow water from an untreated water source
  • If you have any cuts on your skin, don’t swim as this can cause bacteria and viruses to infect your wounds, potentially leading to a serious illness
  • Don’t swim if you’re sick
  • Don’t swim if there are dead fish present in a body of water
  • Use extreme caution if you encounter flooding or fast-moving waters as the water may be deeper or moving faster than you think

For more information about safety during and after severe weather, click here.

About the Author:

Nicole Del Rosario joined WSLS 10 in August 2020.