TARBORO — The environmental effects from Hurricane Floyd will linger for months. Rivers are swollen with human and animal waste and other pollutants. It is not safe to drink the water in many flooded counties, and it could be quite some time before taps run clear.
"If I'd had a choice, we would have water rather than electricity," says Tarboro resident Alison Boyette.
Like thousands of other families, the Boyette's city water has been shut off and may be off for up to three weeks. They have to go to Wilson to get clean water and shower, and they must use pond water to flush their toilets.
"Not having the water is inconvenient, I don't think it's healthy, and it makes it very difficult to keep things clean," says Boyette.
Flood victims like Mitchell Underwood who rely on well water are having bigger problems. Flood water went over and into his well. His water is probably contaminated, and anyone who drinks it could get very sick.
Hundreds of people in one Nash County subdivision alone had their wells tapped by flood waters and it may be awhile before they have clean drinking water.
"If they can get the well chlorinated, and get it run off, and call us back, and get a clean sample, you're looking at maybe a week. And now if we have to go back and re-chlorinate, you're looking at two or three weeks. It may take two or three procedures to get it out," says Mack Shingleton, an inspector with the Nash County Health Department.
Even if you have a well where the flood water did not run over, if someone near you did, your well water could still be contaminated.
Children, older persons and pregnant women are especially at risk to the bacteria in the water.
If you have questions or concerns about your tap or well water, you are advised to call your county health department.