NH Department of Health and Human Services issued a consumer advisory Feb. 22 that recommends consumers who purchased 3 gallon or 5 gallon water bottles from Poland Spring since Nov. 1, 2012 check them for possible gasoline odors before using.
Poland Spring issued its own statement on the issue.
Clean water is odorless and should not have any chemical smell.
The problem stemmed from Super Storm Sandy. When it struck the Eastern seaboard in October, some gas shortages in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut prompted some residents to use the empty Poland Spring containers to transport gas. Bottled water companies over the past three months have detected and blocked from reuse an increased number of returned water bottles found to contain gasoline residue or fumes, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Despite efforts to detect, disinfect and sanitize the bottles, a small number are believed to be back in consumer use.
The exposure levels are unlikely to result in long-term health effects, according to DHHS, which is working with the FDA and other New England states on the issue. Dr. José Montero, director of NH Public Health Services, issued a statement Feb. 22:
"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. Of course during a disaster we need to do what is necessary to go on, but contaminated water bottles should be discarded."
The issue concerns only the 3- and 5- gallon water bottles.