Beware of these environmental health risks in flood clean up

SES Blacktown Unit assisting with evacuations in Shanes Park this week. Source: SES NSW Facebook

NSW Health has today issued advice for people in flood-affected areas as they enter the clean-up phase.

Acting Director of Environmental Health, Dr Adi Vyas said there were a variety of environmental health risks following flooding, particularly as floodwater may be contaminated with sewage and chemicals.

“Many parts of NSW have been badly affected by flooding and some people are beginning to return home. Though this will be a distressing and difficult experience, we want to remind people of the need to be safe when cleaning up their home to protect their health,” Dr Vyas said.

Tips for people cleaning up after flood damage:

  • Always wear protective gear, including gloves and face masks, as well as covered shoes and full-length clothing.
  • Remove carpets, mattresses and other wet furniture.
  • Check behind fridges and cupboards and wall and floor cavities as mould or mildew can develop.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning.
  • Septic tanks and onsite wastewater systems should be inspected as they could have broken or moved.
  • Adhere to boil water instructions. Use boiled water for drinking, washing raw food, cooking, brushing teeth, and pets’ drinking water.
  • Do not use rainwater tank water as stored water may contain bacteria.

Dr Vyas also warned to be careful when cleaning tanks.

“Cleaning rainwater tanks carries safety risks, so contact your tank supplier and consider the structural integrity of the tank. If your rainwater tank has been inundated by flood water, empty the tank water, disinfect drinking water inside the tank with chlorine and clean and flush the rest of the system, including pipes and taps,” Dr Vyas said.

Dr Vyas also reiterated advice to people to never swim in floodwater.

“Floodwater can be extremely polluted and contaminated with sewage and chemicals. Contact can lead to skin and stomach infections and other rare, but serious conditions, such as leptospirosis,” he said.

NSW Health is providing additional healthcare support to communities which are isolated, or at risk of flooding, as part of the state’s emergency response.


If you have any questions, seek advice from your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.

If you need emergency assistance in a flood or storm, call the State Emergency Service (SES) on 132 500.

For a medical, police or fire emergency call Triple Zero (000).

Health advice is also available 24 hours a day from healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.

Mental health support is available on the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.