Boil Water Advisories

When test results show elevated levels of bacteria in drinking water, the Department of Health & Wellness or Environmental Health may issue a “boil-water advisory” (BWA). Environmental Health recommends that you limit water exposure and practice due diligence with personal hygiene and use sanitizer until the boil-water advisory is lifted.

A public or semi-public facility is required to keep all residents, visitors and staff notified of the boil-water advisory, (e.g. post signs in washrooms) and ensure hand-washing supplies are available.

The following recommendations will help ensure water is used safely while the advisory is in place.

Drinking water and food preparation

  • Bring all drinking water to a rolling boil for two minutes.
  • Use boiled or bottled water for washing raw fruits or vegetables, brushing teeth, preparing baby formula, and making juices, coffee or tea and ice cubes.
  • Do not rely on automatic shut-off kettles because water does not boil long enough to be safe.
  • Do not use point-of-use treatment filters that fit onto tap (including water softeners), reverse-osmosis or sediment/charcoal filter devices as they may not eliminate the bacteria.
  • For schools, grocery stores and food premises, specifically:
    • Shut off the water supply to all water fountains.
    • Do not use water dispensing machines.
    • Turn off vegetable misters.
    • Obtain ice from an alternate source. Do not use ice made with contaminated water.
    • For food contact surfaces, use sanitizer which does not require rinsing after use or rinse with boiled/bottled water.

Hand washing

Regular hand washing is very important, especially following washroom use and before food handling and preparation. Wash hands with boiled or bottled water or with tap water as usual, using one of the following additional steps:

  • Wipe hands thoroughly with an alcohol-based antiseptic wipe;
  • Apply a liquid hand sanitizer to hands; or
  • Immerse hands for a few seconds in water disinfected with liquid household bleach (½ tsp. per litre of water).

Please note:  If water is grossly contaminated with E.coli bacteria, do not wash hands with the tap water before using one of the options identified above.


Care should be taken to avoid inadvertently consuming water during showering/bathing.  As a precaution, bathing water can be disinfected by adding one ounce (30ml) of household bleach (5.25%) to an average-sized bathtub, half filled with water. Mix well and let stand for 15 minutes before bathing.  If the water is grossly contaminated (E.coli bacteria present), bathing is not recommended.

Dish washing

Dishes may be safely washed in hot water and dish detergent. Once washed, soak dishes for a minimum two minutes in a solution of liquid household bleach (5.25%) and water - one ounce (30ml) bleach to three gallons (11 litres) or average sink full of water.

For dishwashers that use high water temperature, add 1 ounce (30ml) liquid household bleach (5.25%) to the final rinse cycle.


For portable humidifiers, add disinfectant as per manufacturer directions.

A mechanical humidification system should be turned off until the bacterial contamination problem has been rectified.          

What is required once the boil water advisory is lifted?

Once two water samples, taken at least 24 hours apart, are free from contamination, a boil-water advisory may be lifted by the Department of Health & Wellness.  When the advisory is lifted, the following steps are to be taken:

  • Run all water taps for two (2) minutes to flush the system before using.
  • For schools, grocery stores and food premises, specifically:
    • Turn on and flush all refrigerated water fountains for ten (10) minutes before using.
    • Ensure ice, fountain pop, and slushi machines are properly flushed and sanitized before using.
    • Run all vegetable misters for two minutes with shelves empty.

How can I get my water tested?

Water testing services are provided through the PEI Analytical Laboratory. Find more information about Testing Drinking Water.

Published date: 
May 2, 2017
Health and Wellness

General Inquiries

Environmental Health
2nd Floor Sullivan Building
Fitzroy Street
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
Telephone: 902-368-4970
Toll Free: 1-800-958-6400