Poland Spring is warning customers that gasoline may have contaminated some of its large recycled water bottles in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
The powerful storm, also known as Super Storm Sandy, hit the eastern seaboard of the U.S. in late October 2012, leaving many people along the East Coast without power or gasoline.
During that time, Poland Spring indicates that many of its customers used its 3-gallon and 5-gallon water bottles to transport and store fuel and then returned those bottles to the company for recycling. The company issued an advisory on February 7, warning customers to check the 3-gallon and 5-gallon water bottles for possible gasoline odors before using them, as it appears they may not have been properly screened to remove water bottles contaminated with gasoline.
Last week, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued a press release repeating Poland Spring’s warning, noting that while some bottles were detected before being redistributed, there is a chance that others slipped through the detection process and were refilled with water and sent to customers.
“This contamination is not thought to be a widespread problem, but we want to remind consumers that they should use their 3- or 5-gallon water bottles only for drinking water,” advised New Hampshire’s Director of Public Health Services, Dr. Jose Montero. “Of course during a disaster we need to do what is necessary to go on, but contaminated water bottles should be discarded.”
Poland Springs indicates that it puts the returned containers through vigorous examinations and disinfection processes to clean and determine if there is a presence of gas in the bottles. After the bottles are disinfected and washed with very hot water they go through a thorough inspection to determine if there are any volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) present. Typically if VOC’s are sensed, the bottle has transported gasoline and the bottle will be destroyed.
Poland Springs believes that majority of the bottles affected by gasoline transport have been detected and destroyed but is advising consumers to smell the water in the containers for gasoline.
Consumers are advised to contact their healthcare provider if they experience any side effects that may be associated with consuming water tainted with gas and to contact their water provider if the odor of gas is present in the water. Consumers of Poland Spring water may call 1-800-477-7464 to report potentially contaminated water.