A boil water advisory is a public notification advising customers to boil tap water before consuming it. Advisories are issued when an event has occurred with the potential to adversely affect water quality, or a situation has occurred where there is known degradation of the water quality.  There are two types: precautionary and mandatory.

Precautionary boil water advisory: Issued when the water system experiences a loss in positive water pressure, typically due to a serious main break or low storage tank levels. A loss of positive water pressure indicates the existence of conditions that could allow contamination to enter the distribution system. This is the most common type of advisory, which is issued as a precaution until water samples are collected and analyzed to confirm that water quality has not been affected.

Mandatory boil water notice: Issued when contamination is confirmed in the water system. Customers are instructed to boil the water to kill bacteria and other organisms in the water, until the issue is resolved and the notice can be lifted. Contamination from organisms, such as bacteria, viruses and parasites, can cause symptoms, including nausea, cramps, diarrhea and associated headaches.

Frequently Asked Questions

What actions do I need to take?

If notified of a boil water advisory, DO NOT DRINK WATER WITHOUT BOILING IT FIRST. Bring all water to a rolling boil, let it boil for one minute, and cool before using; or use bottled water. You should use boiled or bottled water for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth and food preparation until you are notified that the advisory has been lifted.  

We also recommend the following steps:

    • Throw away uncooked food or beverages or ice cubes if made with tap water during the day of the advisory
    • Keep boiled water in the refrigerator for drinking
    • Do not swallow water while you are showering or bathing
    • Provide pets with boiled water after cooling
    • Do not use home filtering devices in place of boiling or using bottled water; Most home water filters will not provide adequate protection from microorganisms
    • Use only boiled water to treat minor injuries
    • Do not wash salad items with tap water during the period; Use bottled water or freshly boiled and cooled tap water

How long does a boil water advisory last until it can be lifted?

According to West Virginia Bureau for Public Health guidelines, water samples must be collected to test for bacteria in the distribution system. Water samples undergo a 24-hour test at a certified laboratory to determine if they contain any harmful bacteria. Samples are only collected after water service to the area has been restored and the lines have been flushed to remove any sediment or trapped air, a process which can take an hour or longer. As a result, precautionary boil water advisories must remain in effect for a minimum of 24 hours from the time the water sample is collected. Customers will be notified of a precautionary boil water advisory lift in the same manner they received the initial notification - text, email or phone call. Customers can sign up for these alerts by calling 1-800-685-8660 or through your online customer account. 

You will be notified when the corrective actions have been completed and you no longer need to boil your water.  This information will also be provided on West Virginia American Water’s website under Alerts Notification.

What should I do once the advisory is lifted?

Customers under a precautionary boil water advisory can resume normal water usage when the notice is lifted without taking any additional measures. If you experience cloudy or discolored water, you should run your faucets for a few minutes until the water runs clear. 

Should I flush my house pipes? 

The company will notify you if it necessary to flush household pipes and provide instruction for steps to take prior to using the water in the event of a mandatory boil water notice . Flushing simply means letting the water run to ensure that no contaminated water remains in your pipes. If customers are advised to flush household plumbing, the guidelines will likely include:

    • Run all cold water faucets in your home for at least five minutes at one time with the highest water flow possible to prevent splashing or flooding of the drains
    • To flush automatic ice makers, make three batches of ice and discard
    • Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.  Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines specified in the owner’s manual
    • Run drinking water fountains and water coolers with direct water connections for at least five minutes at the highest flow rate possible
    • Change refrigerator filters

Can I use the water for showering and bathing?

It is NOT recommended to shower or bathe during a precautionary boil water advisory. If necessary, bring water to a boil and allow to cool before bathing. When bathing, avoid allowing the water to come in contact with an open wound, eyes or mouth.

Can I use the water for laundry?

Yes, it is OK to do laundry.

Can I use the water for washing dishes?

You should NOT use the dishwasher because the water temperature doesn’t reach the boiling point. Dishes should be hand-washed with water that has been boiled first. Or, you can use hot, soapy water and add one tablespoon of bleach per gallon as a precaution. Rinse dishes in cooled water that has been boiled first.  

Do I still need to boil my water if I have a filter system on my faucet or refrigerator?

Most point-of-use filters are designed to improve the aesthetics of water (improve taste and odor), and not to remove harmful bacteria. You can learn about the capability of your filter by contacting the manufacturer. If in doubt, you should boil your water or use bottled water even if you have a filtering system.