Oklahoma Experts Say Don't Play In Flood Waters

Monday, June 1st 2015, 8:13 pm
By: News On 6

You may want to think twice before swimming or playing in area flood waters.

While it might look like fun, the water is full of bacteria that can make you sick, and experts say it's best just to stay away.

People often think flood water is like creek or lake water, but experts say they are not the same.

In most creeks and lakes, there's a flow of water and an ecosystem to balance it, but flood waters are, essentially, a pool of bacteria and other hazards.

"Just because you have a lake in your front yard because of all of the water doesn't mean you should go play in it," said Nicole Schlaefli with the Tulsa Health Department.

If you do, it could lead you straight to the hospital because bacteria could easily, and unknowingly, be ingested through the eyes, nose and cuts in the skin.

Chad Keller with the Department of Environmental Quality said, "You just got to think they are not really thinking exactly what they could be exposing themselves to."

While you can't always see it, health officials say bacteria that cause Salmonella, Shigella, Hepatitis A, Typhoid and tetanus is often hidden in the flood waters.

OSHA Flood Water Fact Sheet

"If you come in contact with any surface water that's not treated, we want you to be aware that you could become sick, that you do need to stay up on your vaccinations," Schlaefli said.

She said the untreated water you're playing in is the same water rats, possums, dogs and cats have also been in - and there's a danger of raw sewage in the water.

"If we have a lot of water building up then we're gonna have a lot of backflow on toilets, and sinks and things like that. And raw sewage is going to be associated with that, and raw sewage can lead to the potential of having Hepatitis A," Schlaefli said.

The DEQ also warns about the chemicals in the run-off water.

"The runoff from areas around the creek, like business' trash cans, sewer lines, someone might have chemicals in a tote, and that could have gotten knocked over and washed into the creek or any kind of vehicle fluids on the street or spills, any of that can be co-mingled into a flood water," said Keller.

Experts also have a warning about walking in the water.

They say manhole covers can be forced off by the flood waters, and you could fall into a manhole leading to injury or even death from drowning.