Wednesday August 31, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- Officials are asking people to continue to use caution and common sense in dealing with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, even when it comes to home gardens.

The Vermont Department of Health and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture issued an advisory today for anyone growing fruits and vegetables that may have come into contact with flood waters.

"Flood waters could have been contaminated and people are urged to discard above-ground fruits or vegetables that have matured and cannot be washed and cooked prior to consumption," said Mark Bosma, public information officer for Vermont Emergency Management.

Bosma said people should be concerned about lettuce, greens, herbs, tomatoes and squash, which have already produced food.

"Root crops are not a concern as long as they are thoroughly washed and cooked," Bosma said. "It is difficult to remove all the contamination with just plain rinsing and any produce in question should be thrown away."

A basic rule to remember for all food that may have come in contact with contaminated water or not kept at the right temperature because of a power outage is, "if you have any doubt, throw it out," he said.

Bosma added people should never taste food to determine whether it is safe and just because food may smell and look fine, it can still cause food poisoning.

Animal and livestock owners likewise, are advised to not let the animals drink from any of the standing or flowing water or eat any of the crops or home-grown vegetables or fruits for fear of illness, Bosma said.


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Rivers and stream are still moving at a rapid pace and not all of them have crested or began to recede, he said. People should not be fishing, swimming or doing any other recreational activities in the waterways until the threat of injury has diminished.

Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn, said people need to continue heed safety warnings and obey road blockages so road crews and emergency workers can continue to get where they need to.

"In a situation this big, we don't have enough people to be everywhere," Wrinn said. "You might see nice blacktop but you don't know what is or isn't underneath it."

He said that some people have made extremely poor choices during and after the destruction that could have ended in multiple deaths.

Two people attempted to tube down the Whetstone Brook on Sunday, but were stopped before entering the water, Wrinn said.

Another fatality was adverted when man attempted to kayak the river through downtown Wilmington and his kayak turned over in the raging water.

"We thought he was lost, but he popped up around Church Street," said Fire Chief Ken March. "He got a rather stern talking to by both the police department and myself."

Hundreds of people are still without power and as food supplies dwindle, officials are scrambling to deliver aid to the areas hit hardest.

Steve Costello, spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service, said line crews across central and southern Vermont are building completely new lines, often in new locations.

"Entire lines have disappeared," Costello said. "Typically we'd have extensive discussion about the location of new power lines, but our focus right now has to be on getting service back to every community we can reach as quickly as possible."

Josh Stilts can be reached at jstilts@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.