SIMCOE MUSKOKA — The health unit — which is facing severe funding cuts — offers the latest official tips on dealing with flood sandbags.

Thousands of sandbags have been in use to protect homes and businesses during the flooding across Muskoka and North Simcoe.

Once floodwaters recede, used sandbags should be considered contaminated, as they have been in contact with everything that was in the water.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit advises that both the bags and the sand within them may contain harmful bacteria or other contaminants. They could be contaminated by oil-based or fuel products, hazardous chemicals, salt, sewage or septic waste. These contaminants can be harmful to human health and the environment.

All those sandbags that have been used as break waters are considered contaminated by the health unit, which advises they be disposed of at District of Muskoka landfills. (Photo by Shannon Durnan)
  • Treat used sandbags as municipal waste. For more information on where to dispose used sandbags contact your local municipality.
  • Wear appropriate protection such as gloves and eye wear to reduce your risk of exposure to bacteria, chemicals or other hazards that could be present on or in used sandbags.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water after contacting floodwaters or handling items such as used sandbags.
  • Do not reuse sand from used sandbags in areas where there may be human contact.
  • Do not reuse the sand from used sandbags in children’s sandboxes, playgrounds or for landscaping purposes where there may be direct human contact.
  • Never dispose of sand from used sandbags in a wetland, along waterways (shorelines) or other locations where it may have contact with people, wildlife and the water.

For more information about flooding, visit the health unit’s website at, or call Health Connection weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.