Boil Water Notices

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Boil Water Notice FAQs

Why did I receive a boil water notice?

Bellevue Utilities takes the protection of our drinking water quality very seriously. If you are in an area with a boil water notice in place, it means that the drinking water system that serves your area may have been exposed to or contaminated with organisms that can cause illness.

What causes boil water notice incidents?

The most common cause is a large water main break situation. The sudden loss of pressure in the failed water main can create a situation where air or other microorganisms can enter the water system. Although the water system maintains a chlorine disinfectant residual that kills common water microbes, in these situations the Utility takes all precautions. Water quality staff assess the damage from large main breaks and determine whether a boil water notice is needed to allow adequate sampling and testing to ensure water remains safe to drink. 

What do I do when I receive the boil water notice?

Bellevue Utilities recommends boiling or using bottled water for drinking, preparing food, or cleaning dishes during the duration of the boil water notice. Boiling water is the best way to ensure water is free of potentially illness-causing organisms. Bring the water to a rolling boil for one minute. When it cools, refrigerate the water in clean covered containers.

Tap water may still be used to meet some needs - see table below for safe uses.

What happens if I drink the water during a boil water order?

Anyone who drinks contaminated water may become ill. Infants, young children, the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems are more at risk of illness. This includes people who are on chemotherapy, organ or bone marrow recipients, those with HIV or AIDS, malnourished children, infants, and some of the elderly with compromised or weakened immune systems.

If you feel ill and believe it may be the result of drinking potentially contaminated water, contact your health care provider.

Can I still use tap water for some needs? 

The table below shows example safe uses of tap water during a boil water order

PURPOSE OK TO USE?
Drinking No
Ice cubes No
Brushing teeth No
Baby formula No
Washing fruits/vegetables No
Preparing food No
Coffee or tea No
Washing hands Yes. Vigorous hand washing with soap and tap water is safe for basic personal hygiene. However, if washing hands to prepare food, use boiled (then cooled) water, disinfectant or bottled water with hand washing soap.
Showers/baths Yes
Shaving Yes
Washing Yes
Washing clothes/laundry Yes
Baby's bath Yes, as long as they do not drink any of the bathwater. Do not let babies suck on washcloths.
Washing dishes Yes, you can use your dishwasher if you use the sanitizing/heat cycle and commercial dishwashing detergent. If hand washing dishes, rinse in a diluted bleach solution - one teaspoon household bleach to one gallon of water - then let dishes air dry.
Pet water bowl No. Pets can get some of the same diseases as people. It is a good idea to give them boiled water that has been cooled otherwise contact your veterinarian for further advice based on your pet's medical history.
Fish/aquatic pets Most germs that infect people do not infect reptiles or fish. If your water system is using more chlorine or changing disinfection, be cautious about changing the water in your fish tank or aquarium. Contact your local pet store or veterinarian for more advice.
Garden and house plants Yes.

How long will the boil water notice last?

Bellevue Utilities staff are committed to ensuring safe, high-quality drinking water. The boil water notice will remain in place until the situation has been resolved and satisfactory water sampling results are received.

Bellevue Utilities will take all necessary actions to ensure the water is safe to drink before lifting the boil water notice.

What do I do after a boil water order is lifted?

Flush household pipes/faucets first.

  • To flush your plumbing, run all your cold water faucets on full for at least 5 minutes each.
  • For a residence with multiple levels, start at the top of the house.
  • If your service connection is long or complex (like in an apartment building) consider flushing for a longer period. Your building superintendent or landlord should be able to advise you on longer flushing times.
  • If the water is discolored, continue to run it from the tap until it is clear.

Ice and automatic ice makers:

  • Wash and sanitize ice trays.
  • For an icemaker, dump existing ice and flush the water feed lines by making and discarding three batches of ice cubes.
  • Wipe down the ice bin with a disinfectant.
  • If your water feed line to the machine is longer than 20 feet, discard five batches of ice cubes.

Hot water heaters, water coolers, in-line filters, and other appliances with direct water connections or water tanks: 

  • Run enough water to completely replace at least one full volume of all lines and tanks.
  • If your filters are near the end of their life, replace them.
  • Follow any other instructions from the appliance manufacturer.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) units: Replace pre-filters, check owner's manual.

Replace other water filters, as they are disposable and may be contaminated. This applies especially to carbon filters and others that are near the end of their life.