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Insight Denton: I'm headed to Houston to help clean up. Just how dirty is that flood water?

Floodwaters carry harmful bacteria and other disease agents from overflowing sewer and septic systems and farmyards as well as toxic spills from manufacturing sites. Hazardous objects and displaced wildlife can hide in floodwaters. Hazards can float in debris piles, too, including rafts of fire ants. Heed public warnings wherever you are working, including boil water notices.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials urge volunteers to wear protective clothing, including rubber boots and gloves, to limit exposure to bacteria and other infectious diseases, such as typhoid. Avoid putting your hands near your face when working. 

And don't poke the fire ant pile, since that will trigger a swarm. 

In addition, be sure the main power source to any home or business is turned off to limit risk of electrocution, particularly if the building flooded above the electrical outlets. An electrician should evaluate whether wires and plugs need to be replaced before turning the power back on.  

If you need more information on how to clean and disinfect a home or business, consult reliable sources, such as the FEMA website

SOURCES: Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas A&M University and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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FEATURED PHOTO:  Menion Brock and Michelle Green clean up their home, damaged by floodwaters of Tropical Storm Harvey, in the Parkway Forest subdivision of Houston. (Brent Coomer, Houston Chronicle/AP)