Back to business, but take precautions around floodwater

17 February 2011

People in the Top End are being warned to exercise a high level of caution around floodwater because of the risk of contamination from sewage and other hazards.

The Department of Health today said particular care should be taken around flooded septic tanks on properties, swollen waterways and flooded recreational areas and roads.

"People should treat all floodwater as potentially contaminated, particularly with bacteria from sewage and other potential dangers, such as sharp objects, submerged holes and various hazards," DoH Environmental Health Director Xavier Schobben said.

"We are receiving reports of some houses being inundated in the aftermath of ex-tropical cyclone Carlos and some flooded septic tanks in the rural area," Mr Schobben said.

"It's a timely reminder that all people, especially children, should keep away from floodwaters, stormwater drains, waterways and potholes."

Mr Schobben said people with cuts and abrasions on their skin were particularly at risk of contracting infections and should avoid any contact with pooled floodwater or mud.

"If adults must enter floodwaters, wear solid shoes, preferably gum boots, not thongs or bare feet, and check the depth and current with a stick," he said.

"Be careful around drains, culverts and any water source more than knee deep. Floodwaters can be very deceptive and once you get into trouble, especially if you're alone, rescue can be very difficult and it's very dangerous, with potentially-fatal consequences."

Mr Schobben advised people to always wear gloves when handling flood-affected items or mud, and to be particularly mindful about fallen powerlines, damaged trees and flooded creeks. He also advised people who are cleaning their properties and using high pressure hoses to use face masks or cloth coverings to limit exposure to any potential floodwater contamination.

For further specific information on getting back to business after a flood, see the Flood fact sheets on http://health.nt.gov.au/Environmental_Health/Disaster_Management/index.aspx

Media contact: Dale Webster 0401 116 203