Stories From the Field
Frozen pipes could be hazardous to your health
We've all probably experienced water pressure drops, or even interruptions in water service. Roughly 240,000 water main breaks occur in the United States every year. It's usually no more than mildly inconvenient. But when you're without water for 12 days, like people in two rural counties in Alabama were in January 2010, it could be dangerous to your health.
Below-freezing temperatures had caused water mains and residential pipes to burst. Once water service was restored, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) wanted to know what effect, if any, the interruption in water service had on the health of the community.
ADPH invited CDC to assist in an investigation that pulled in experts from public health and emergency response. After conducting extensive surveys and analyzing other data, they found a higher-than-average amount of gastrointestinal illness in households that were without water service for a week or more. Using the findings of the interdisciplinary investigation, CDC issued recommendations to protect the health of communities during a water emergency.