Public Health officials are offering advice to residents in the Kenora area who may be returning to their homes after evacuating due to the severe flooding in the area.

On May 27, leadership with the City of Kenora reopened a number of roadways in the city’s evacuation zone north of the by-pass, allowing residents access back to 223 of the 312 properties that were affected by Kenora’s original evacuation order issued on May 13.

The evacuation order remains in effects for Essex Road, School Road and parts of Coker Road, with a new evacuation order in effect for Sedesky Road and Wildwood Drive. A flood watch has also been issued for Herbacz Road, Golf Course Road and Gould Road.

The NWHU is now offering advice to residents that are returning to their homes or plan to return to their homes soon, as flooding can cause a variety of health concerns. The NWHU says risks can include:

- Flood water can contain pollutants such as agricultural waste, chemicals or raw sewage and can contaminate local waterways that supply drinking water. Combined sewer systems can also back up into household plumbing and increase the risk of contaminating food and water.

- Where flood waters impact buildings, prolonged wet or damp conditions can cause mould growth. People who are sensitive to mould may experience allergic reactions, and chronic or severe exposure can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, poor concentration and fatigue.

- Flood waters can impact private drinking water wells. If your well has flood water pooling around or over it, there may be contamination of the ground water in the well. In this case, use a different source of water for drinking, food preparation and brushing your teeth, or boil the water for one minute before consumption. You may need to later sample and disinfect your well once waters recede.

- Food that has been in contact with flood waters or that has been stored in flooded basements should be discarded, except for undamaged canned goods. Canned goods should still have their label removed, and the can should be washed and disinfected before opening.

- Structural and electrical safety concerns can exist when dealing with flood conditions. The Government of Canada says if your home’s main power switch was not turned off prior to flooding, do not re-enter your home until an electrician has determined it is safe to do so. Your main electrical panel will need to be cleaned, dried and tested by the electrician as well, and you shouldn’t use any appliances or electrical components until they have been cleaned and dried as well.

- Flooding can increase the amount of mosquitoes in the area by increasing the still-water habitat in which they breed, which can result in outbreaks of diseases they transmit. Requests for more information from local entomologists have been sent by Q104 and KenoraOnline.

The NWHU adds that if you have questions about flooding-related health risks, you’re asked to contact the NWHU and ask to speak with a public health inspector by calling 807-468-3147 in Kenora.

The Lake of the Woods area and northwestern Ontario areas have seen severe flooding situations this spring, with water levels on Lake of the Woods nearing their all-time highs after record-high snow and rainfall over the winter and spring.