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Q and A: Your boil-water advisory questions answered

Water from tap
Tap water. Cate Gillon/Getty Images

MONTREAL – With at least 1.3 million Montrealers left without safe, clean drinking water after a city-wide boil water advisory was issued, many have a few questions. We try to answer a few.

OMG. There’s a boil water advisory. I had no idea.
Click here to read all about it.

What areas of Montreal are affected?
To find out what areas in Montreal the boil water advisory affects, click here. 

What time does the alert in Montreal take effect from? I want to know when I need to throw out my food?
The first boil water advisory was issued to the media at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

Will my water filter kill any bacteria?
Portable, plumbed in or faucet-mounted home filtration devices and filters do not kill bacteria. If you want to drink it, boil it!

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When will it end?
The boil water advisory is in effect indefinitely but it’s now expected to end late Thursday evening. There is a 24-hour delay after a test to ensure water safety. Once officials give the all-clear, the advisory will be lifted.

Can my cat drink the water?
Pets should be provided boiled or bottled water until the boil water advisory is lifted.

Is it safe to use my dishwasher?
If your dishwasher has a hot or “sani-cycle” then it can be used, as it would safely disinfect your dishes. If it doesn’t , after the dishes have been washed, soak them for one minute in a bleach solution (30 ml bleach to 13.5 litres of water) and then let them air dry.

What are the symptoms of water contamination?
If you drank unboiled water and you begin to have nausea, fever, diarrhea or vomiting, you should seek medical attention. Call Info Sante on 811 or see your doctor. Don’t forget to tell them that you have consumed tap water during the boil water advisory.

Can I still eat in restaurants?
Restaurants and food establishments have very specific directives from Quebec’s public health ministry, which all legal operators must follow to ensure that food and drink offered to Montrealers is safe to consume.

I brushed my teeth this morning. Will I die?
In a word, no.  The boil water advisory is a precaution. But if you begin to experience symptoms, you should contact Info Sante on 811.  

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Is there anywhere in Montreal that’s safe to drink tap water?
Some areas in and close to Montreal don’t get drinking water from the Atwater filtration plant and so are unaffected. These areas include: Longueuil, Laval, Pointe Claire, Dorval and the rest of the West Island.

For more information, visit the Government of Quebec’s information page [in French].