Avoid Health Risks During Flood Cleanup


From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale Burstein

Date December 23, 2013

CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov

Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925

Avoid Health Risks During Flood Cleanup

Your Basement Flooded, Now What?

ERIE COUNTY, NY—In light of this weekend’s weather that caused flooding across Erie County, the Erie County Department of Health (“ECDOH”) reminds residents to be mindful of health and safety when cleaning up your flooded basement.

“Exposure to contaminants carried by flood water or sewer back-ups into basements can be dangerous. Homeowners may be exposed to waterborne diseases or corrosive cleaning agents and irritants found in leftover sludge from a flooded basement” states Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health

“Be sure to keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed. While cleaning your basement, dress appropriately – wear overalls, gloves, protective eyeglasses, rubber boots and a mask to avoid contact with contaminated floors, walls or other objects” Burstein continues. “Although skin contact with floodwater does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, there is risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with floodwater.”

Here are additional precautions and tips for residents to follow:

  • Wash all surfaces with hot water and liquid detergent, rinse and thoroughly dry and ventilate the area. Use a dehumidifier and fans if necessary.
  • Sanitize walls and floors using a solution of household bleach (mix 1 cup bleach with 5 gallons of water). Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products. For more details, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website.
  • Open windows to let fresh air in.
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that will be exposed to floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and applying an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection.
  • Stay away from electrical equipment. Have a qualified electrician assess the situation, if uncertain of potential electrical hazards.
  • Water could extinguish a pilot light on a gas appliance. If you detect gas, leave the house immediately and contact the gas company.
  • Discard all contaminated items that cannot be washed and disinfected, (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, plush toys, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water (check manufacturer's washing instructions) and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
  • Throw out canned foods, home-prepared food in jars, meats and dairy products and any packaged foods that may have been affected by the flood waters – check for damaged packaging, leaks, and corrosion at seams and joints of cans.
  • If your freezer's power was off, throw it out any food that wasn’t kept frozen.
  • If in doubt, throw it out. Do not consume potentially contaminated food.
  • For severe instances of flooding, consider hiring a professional cleaning company familiar with cleaning sewage contaminated basements.

For more information

Follow the ECDOH on:

# # #

Frequently Requested



Phone: (716) 858-7690

Fax: (716) 858-8701

Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH)
95 Franklin Street
Buffalo, New York 14202

ECDOH Locations