FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following advisory was issued today by the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization (NBEMO), River Watch 2019:

Residents should avoid contact with floodwater if possible, as the water may contain sewage from overflowing sewage systems and agricultural and industrial waste, which poses health risks such as sickness and infections. Individuals could become sick by putting contaminated hands in or near their mouth or by consuming contaminated food or water.

“As the floodwaters begin to slowly recede and people begin to return to their homes, we need residents to be mindful of their health and make it a priority,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health. “Always wash hands with soap and clean water after cleanup activities or after handling articles contaminated by floodwater, even if you were wearing gloves. If soap and water are not available for hand washing, use a hand sanitizer.”

Russell said it is important to keep pets out of the flooded area to prevent them from tracking bacteria to other areas. Do not allow children to play in floodwater areas until the areas have been cleaned up or for about a week after the floodwater has cleared completely, after which sunlight and soil help destroy harmful bacteria and any excess risk to health should disappear.

“Wash children’s hands frequently, and always before meals,” she said. “Wash floodwater-contaminated toys with hot water or disinfect before allowing them to be used.”

Floodwaters may cause community sewage systems to become overwhelmed and this can lead to sewage backing up into homes or businesses.

The Public Health website has more details about safe hygiene procedures.

People with wells that were impacted by floodwaters should not use their well water. If well water has a persistent odour or discolouration, or if residents believe it has been affected by chemicals such as furnace oil, gasoline or agricultural chemicals, it should not be used for any purpose, even if it has been boiled.

If floodwater has receded from the well, and there are no signs of chemical contamination, ensure that well water is boiled for one minute prior to consumption until water test results are returned. For infant formula, continue to boil the water for two minutes as per the manufacturer’s instructions or use single serve ready-to-feed formula. More information about well water safety is available online.

Residents concerned about the safety of their well water should contact the nearest regional office of the Department of Environment and Local Government for further information.

Report issues with water levels

It is important that residents remain vigilant as water levels remain high, particularly in southern regions of the province, and are not forecast to decline significantly until later this week. Residents should heed the advice of officials as flooding will continue to affect a number of communities in the days ahead.

Residents can report issues related to increased water levels or flooding at any time by calling 1-800-561-4034. In case of emergency, call 911.

For recorded River Watch water levels, people may call 1-888-561-4048.

Flood level five-day forecasts are available online for the Upper Saint John River and the lower part of the Saint John River.

Residents can report damages

Residents affected by flooding are asked to report damage by calling 1-888-298-8555 or by registering online.

The Damage Report Line program allows residents, tenants, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations to receive information and register their flood-related damage.

The New Brunswick Damage Report line is available to receive calls between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

Advice concerning flooded basements

People are advised to be cautious when pumping water out of their basements. Pumping it out too soon could cause structural damage or collapse the basement. As a safety precaution, basement water levels should not be more than 30 centimetres (one foot) lower than the outside water level.

The following links provide information useful to residents impacted by flooding:

Canadian Red Cross

The Canadian Red Cross has reception centres at Centre Sainte-Anne, 715 Priestman St. in Fredericton and at Loch Lomond Place (main entrance) at 120 McDonald St. in Saint John, open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Red Cross can provide registered households with residential flood cleanup kits at no charge. These kits of basic household cleanup items can be picked up (limit of one per eligible household) at the Saint John and Fredericton reception centres, as well as the Maugerville Community Centre at 439 Rte. 105, which is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

To date, 486 households (1,207 people) have registered with the Red Cross and 155 households (433 people) are being sheltered.

Residents who are affected by flooding and do not have access to alternative accommodations (with neighbours, friends or family) can contact the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582 between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Donations can be made to the Canadian Red Cross to support those affected by the flood. Funds will be used for immediate and ongoing relief efforts, long-term recovery, resiliency and preparedness. Donors may call 1-800-418-1111 or visit www.redcross.ca.

Road safety and closures

The Trans-Canada Highway from Exit 306 (Oromocto) to Exit 423 (River Glade) remains closed. It will remain so until it is safe to reopen, the water has receded, debris has been removed and the road has been inspected.

Drivers are asked to remain patient. Many provincial and municipal roads have been covered by a significant amount of water for more than a week. While some of those roads may now be dry, it does not mean they are safe to use. Municipal and provincial officials must inspect closed roads, culverts and bridges before they are reopened to determine if remedial work is necessary to make them safe for motorists.

Barricades should be obeyed regardless of a road’s appearance. It is an offence to move or drive around barricades, and offenders will be charged.

A list of the latest road closures is available online.

The My511 mobile application allows users to receive road condition and incident notifications about highway segments they select.

New Brunswickers can help

People are encouraged to continue stepping up and reaching out to help as they are able. Those who can safely do so are asked to contact neighbours to see if they need assistance. Residents can also ask their local emergency measures organization or local authorities what is needed and how they can help.

People should follow authoritative sources such as NBEMO or the provincial government on Facebook and Twitter, and share information from these sources on their social media accounts. Residents are also asked to heed the advice of local authorities including police, fire departments and local municipalities.

NB Power update

NBEMO is working closely with NB Power and the Department of Public Safety’s chief electrical inspector. If rising water contacts or is expected to contact electrical facilities, including receptacles, call 1-800-663-6272 for an emergency disconnect.

Once the water has receded, NB Power has a reconnection process to ensure residents, their neighbours and properties are safe.

Carbon monoxide and fire safety

During a flood, the risk of fire or carbon monoxide exposure is greatly increased.

People should never use generators, pumps or other fuel-powered equipment indoors, and should place powered equipment at least four metres from structures.

People should ensure their home is equipped with functioning battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur quickly. Anyone who believes they have been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning should go outside immediately and then go to the nearest hospital or call 911.

Tips for dealing with stress in an emergency

It is normal for residents to feel anxious about their own safety during an emergency situation, even if they are not directly affected.

If in crisis, there are several 24-hour emergency numbers that are available to help, including CHIMO helpline (1-800-667-5005); Tele-Care (811); and Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868). More information and resources are available online.

Information to residents

People are reminded to:

  • Avoid boating, kayaking or other water activities this time of year as currents are strong and carry debris. As well, people should stay away from the edge of the river while walking.

The River Watch program is a joint effort involving the Department of Environment and Local Government, the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization of the Department of Public Safety, and NB Power. Other partners include watershed groups, and federal, provincial and state agencies involved in monitoring and forecasting the water flow in the province's rivers and streams.

Updates on information related to the potential for flooding or ice jams, including 24/7 emergency updates, is available online.