Status
Active
Incident Date
14 October 2022
Locations Affected
Victoria

Floodwaters carry risks such as water-borne diseases. We have created resources to help you manage the impacts of floods on human health and the environment. 

We are currently testing water and soil samples taken from 11 flood-impacted rivers and waterways at 22 testing sites around Victoria. 

 

If you are in immediate danger and require urgent assistance, dial 000. If you are not in immediate danger, but you require immediate relief assistance, call Emergency Recovery Victoria's hotline on 1800 560 760

 

Links to the latest Victorian flood information

 

Community health advice

EPA has advice on looking after your health during and after a flood. EPA also issues water quality alerts when there is an issue impacting a waterway in Victoria.  

Avoid contact with floodwaters

There are many potential health risks associated with floodwaters. To protect your health, assume all floodwaters are contaminated. Don’t wade through floodwater, even if it is shallow, and try to avoid contact with flood water, mud and dirt.

If contact is unavoidable, please follow our tips to avoid infection from floodwaters.

It may not be safe to use flood water for irrigation, watering your garden, or for animals. Floodwater and flood-related debris can also contaminate private water supplies. If your water supply looks, smells or tastes unusual, do not use it.

 

Always wash your hands with soap and running water after contact with floodwater, or after handling anything that may have been in contact with flood-impacted water or soil.

 

Avoid swimming in Victorian waterways and beaches

EPA advises against swimming at all waterways and beaches for 48 hours after a heavy rain, and for much longer in the event of a flood. Heavy rains and floods can carry pollution and disease-causing bacteria into our waterways which increases the risk of illness to swimmers. We will update you via our water quality alerts page as soon as we have more information.

As a precautionary measure, do not swim, boat, kayak or fish in flood-impacted rivers.

Risk of foodborne illness from homegrown garden produce

Floodwaters can carry many things that may harm human health. If your garden has been in contact with floodwaters, your homegrown produce may not be safe to eat. While some of your fruits and vegetables may be salvageable, if you are in any doubt, you should dispose of them.

River water test results

Floodwaters can carry a range of bacteria and chemicals into our rivers, increasing the risk to human health and the environment.

To understand the impact the recent floods has had on our waterways, we are testing the water quality of 11 flood-impacted rivers at 22 locations across Victoria.

The data indicates contaminants of potential concern (CPOC) were generally below levels of concern, however bacteria levels in the water fluctuate, particularly after small rainfall events. 

 

To protect your health, assume all floodwater is contaminated. Avoid contact with polluted water and sediment if possible.

 

If your property has been impacted by the floods and you would like confirmation of whether your soil has been contaminated, EPA offers soil testing to flood-impacted residents.

Guidance when pumping floodwaters from farms

Assume all floodwaters may be contaminated. The risk of pumping water from flooded farms varies, depending on the nature and extent of any water contamination, and where the water will be deposited. Before you commence pumping, please read our guidance on how to minimise your risk when pumping floodwaters from farms.

Check your septic systems for potential damage

If your property has been affected by floodwater, you should have a licensed plumber or service technician assess your septic system for safety and function. If you use a damaged system, there’s a risk that sewage could back up into your house or garden. This could cause a human health and pollution risk. Read our guide to managing flood-impacted septic systems

Overflow issues at several wastewater treatment plants

EPA is monitoring a significant number of issues related to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) overflowing across Victoria due to heavy rainfall including sewage issues. More information will be released as soon as possible. 

 

Guidance for managing the impact of floods

    For emergency waste management information, please contact EPA on 1300 372 842

    How to manage waste after a flood

    EPA is supporting local government and clean up operators to ensuring the right waste goes to the right places.

    • Visit our resource page on how to clean up after a flood, or check with your local council for information on appropriate clean-up and waste disposal in your area.
    • Read our guide how to dispose of sandbags
    • Read our factsheet how to dispose of asbestos after a flood
    • Waste duties apply to all Victorians. You need to classify hazardous or high-risk waste as reportable priority waste. Requirements apply for transport and disposal of this waste.
    • If you are a driver, producer or receiver of flood-affected waste, you must use our Waste Tracker app to log any flood-affected waste that is likely to contain potentially hazardous waste (known as reportable priority waste). When updating your waste record, please select the waste classification that best describes the flood-affected waste, and then in the additional information section, enter the description WLW17102022.
    • You must categorise priority waste consigned for disposal. For more information, see Waste disposal categories – characteristics and thresholds.
    • Accredited consigners can help you classify your waste and meet your waste duties.
       

     

    Be cautious when assessing and working with flood-impacted property. It is not always possible to tell whether something contains asbestos, or some other dangerous material, just by looking at it.

     

    Flood responsibilities by organisation

    Flood management is shared responsibility among agencies and including but not limited to:

    • Emergency Management Victoria
    • Department of Health
    • Local Government
    • Agriculture Victoria
    • Environment Protection Authority
    • Victorian Fisheries Authority
    • Catchment Management Authorities
    • Water corporations.

    EPA's role during the flood emergency

    EPA is a technical support agency. This means we provide technical and scientific information and advice to emergency and recovery services.

    For more information

    See our resource page on how to clean up after a flood 

    Reviewed 25 November 2022