What is a Precautionary Boil Order

What does a precautionary boil order mean?

It means that there has been an incident that has caused the water system to become susceptible to outside contaminates.  As a precautions, the Village is notifying the affected area to take precautions and if possible, not use the water that comes out of the tap for drinking, brushing your teeth, cooking or washing fruits and vegetables.  You should use bottled water for these activities. 

How long should I boil my water?

The affected tap water should be brought to a rolling boil for 5 minutes before being used.

Why was the precautionary boil issued?

A precautionary boil order has been issued by your water system because of water system maintenance needing to be complete.  When the water system pressure drops below 20 parts per square inch (psi), there is a possibility that organisms outside the pipe may infiltrate the water system and could cause illness (e.g./ fecal or E. coli bacteria), or technical/physical problems in the water system have significantly increased the possibility of bacterial contamination. 

Can I drink the water?

During a precautionary boil order, only bottled water or water that has been boiled for 5 minutes should be consumed or used to wash dishes, wash fruits/vegetables, make ice cubes or brush teeth.


Can I wash my hands with this water? 

It is recomme3neded that bottled water or water boiled for 5 minute should be used for hand washing.  When this is not practical, it is recommended that if tap water must be used to wash and rinse, it should be followed up with the use of a hand sanitizer.  Consuming unsafe water is the most likely way to become ill.  Using extra precautions with hand washing ensures that hands are clean for eating. 


Can I shower or take a bath in this water?

Yes, it is safe to shower or bathe in the water.  The primary concern is that the water not be consumed.  Instruct children not to put the water in their mouth when they are bathing.  When bathing infants, extra precaution should be taken including the use of bottled water or water that has been boiled for 5 minutes and cooled for use. 


How do I wash my dishes?

Use bottled water or water that has been boiled for 5 minutes to wash and rinse dishes.  Home dishwashers cannot be assured to completely kill organisms that may be in the water.


Can I wash my clothes in the water?

Yes, you may continue to use the water to wash clothes.  The major concern is consuming the water.


Is it safe to eat in restaurants under a precautionary boil order?

The Village of Arlington Heights Health & Human Services Department is responsible for checking area restaurants to confirm that safe practices are being followed.  Special procedures are required for them to ensure that food preparation and handling is done in a safe manner.  Additional procedures are also required to provide safe dishwashing.


What do we need to do when the precautionary boil order is lifted?

When the precautionary boil order is lifted, you will receive a GREEN notice from the Village that you may return to normal use of your water service.


Can my pets drink the water?

Animals generally are not affected in the same way as people by contaminants in the water.  An individual may give their pet bottled water or water that has been boiled for 5 minutes and cooled if they choose.  Fish tanks should not be affected.


Is it safe to breast feed during the precautionary boil order after bathing in the water?

Cleaning the breast area with soap and bottled water or water boiled for 5 minutes and cooled prior to feeding will provide assurance that the child will not ingest contaminants that may be on the skin. 


I am on a well, am I affected?



Who can be affected?

Anyone who ingests contaminated water may become ill.  Infants, young children, the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems are more at risk of illness. 


What are the symptoms of water-borne illness?

Disease symptoms may include diarrhea, cramps, nausea and possible jaundice and associated headaches and fatigue.  Symptoms may appear as early as a few hours to several days after infection and may last more than two weeks.  These symptoms, however, are not just associated with disease causing organisms in drinking water.  They may also be caused by a number of other factors.  If you are ill with these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.


What if I drank the water already?

There is nothing you can do about the exposure you have already received.  If you become ill, contact your healthcare provider.  Follow the above recommendations about using your water until you are told the water is safe again.


How long will the precautionary boil order remain in effect?

Each precautionary boil order situation is different, making it impossible to predict how long the boil order will remain in effect.  It will not be lifted until testing shows that the water meets public health standards and water samples test clear of coliforms.  The Village of Arlington Heights will notify you when the boil order is lifted with a “Green” notice on your door.