Natural Disasters and Severe Weather
Environmental Health Division
Cleanup after a Flood: Home and Business
While cleaning up your home or business after a flood, you need to protect yourself against hazards in your food, water, and air. Many hazards aren't obvious and can't be seen—awareness of these hazards will help you work safely and protect your health.
There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. Because of this health threat, it is highly recommended that flood damaged asbestos containing material, be repaired, enclosed, encapsulated or removed. Any asbestos-containing material removed must be properly containerized and disposed of at a landfill approved to accept asbestos containing materials.
There is flood-damaged asbestos in my home/building. What should I do about it?
Homeowners may legally repair, encapsulate and remove asbestos themselves, but only from the single-family residence, they own and occupy. However, MDH strongly recommends hiring an asbestos abatement contractor to do this work for the protection and safety of the occupants of the home. Contractors must be licensed by MDH as an asbestos abatement contractor to enclose, encapsulate or remove asbestos-containing material. Asbestos abatement contractors employ state-of-the-art techniques to handle the asbestos safely. The asbestos abatement contractor also performs air monitoring to ensure that the air in the building meets acceptable standards at the end of the project. Removing the material may be the best option. Especially if the asbestos-containing materials is extensively damaged or if it will be disturbed.
My home/building has to be demolished due to flood damage. What do I do about the asbestos in it?
Homes or buildings scheduled for demolition must have friable (easily breaks down) asbestos-containing material and certain other forms of asbestos-containing material removed before demolition. Friable asbestos-containing material must be removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. If a building is already down due to flooding, the site must be secured, and posted with asbestos warning signs. A licensed asbestos abatement contractor must remove the asbestos-containing material from the demolition debris when feasible. In certain situations when asbestos-containing material cannot be separated from the demolition debris, the contractor may transport and dispose of the debris as bulk asbestos containing waste.
Carbon monoxide is a gas. It has no odor, no color and no taste. Sometimes it is called the silent killer. Carbon monoxide can be a problem after floods. People sometimes use portable generators for making power.
Any fuel-burning machine can create carbon monoxide
Portable gasoline-powered engines that can generate power, pump water, or provide other essential services during a power outage produce significant amounts of carbon monoxide, which is dangerous to your health.
NEVER use a generator, fuel-powered tools, gas or charcoal grill in the house, garage, or in enclosed areas.
Fuel oil contamination
An oil spill is a potential fire hazard - Stay Away!
- Report the spill: Minnesota Duty Officer Program (BCA)
A home that’s been flooded can provide ideal conditions for the growth and proliferation of mold. It is important to know what to look for and how to safely clean up any mold so that the air quality remains safe to breathe.
What is mold and why can it be a problem after a flood?
Mold is a kind of fungus. There are many types of molds, and they are present throughout the environment, indoors and out. Tiny mold particles are always present in the air, in the form of tiny microscopic cells known as spores.
Mold spores can germinate and grow in a moist or damp environment, on any surface that contains organic matter.
Flood conditions can cause a number of potential problems for users of private sewage treatment (septic) systems.
Stop using your sewage system if:
- your septic tank or drainfield becomes flooded.
- you can see any raw sewage or "grey water" on the surface of the ground, as a result of waste water leaking from your system.
- wastewater begins to enter your home through drains or plumbing fixtures.
Water and wells
After flooding, water from private wells may not be safe to drink or use in food preparation. Private well owners are responsible for their private water supply. When a private water well has been flooded, the water in it may be contaminated with waterborne pathogens (germs) that can cause serious illness in humans and pets. If your well has been contaminated by flood water, stop using your well water for drinking and cooking purposes. If flood water reached your well or covered the top of your well casing, assume your well is contaminated. Water from a flooded well cannot be regarded as safe for drinking or food preparation until the well and plumbing system have been flushed, disinfected, and a water test shows that it is safe. Flooded well test kits may be available from local officials. Your well water might also be contaminated if flood water comes within 50 feet of your well, and you may want to have your water tested as a precaution. Use a certified lab to test your well water for coliform bacteria.
- Drinking Water Safety in Emergencies
- Natural Disasters: Well Management Program
- What to Do With Your Private Well After a Flood (EPA)
- Disinfecting Wells After a Disaster (CDC)