05/07/2018 08:26 EDT | Updated 05/07/2018 08:26 EDT

N.B. Flood Waters Pose Sewage Health Risk, Officials Warn

Many sewage systems have been overwhelmed by the flooding.

Simon Barton, left, and Chelsea Burley wear make shift waders of garbage bags and packing tape as they cross a flooded road in Saint John, N.B. on May 6, 2018.

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — As residents of southern New Brunswick contend with the devastating property damage caused by flooding, they are also facing a potentially serious health risk.

New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization warned on Sunday that many sewage systems have been overwhelmed by the flooding.

"The flood water can be heavily contaminated with sewage as a result and people need to be mindful of the health risks, the risks of infections that come with that, as well as the risk of sickness and gastrointestinal illness," said EMO director Greg MacCallum.

Trans-Canada highway still closed

The EMO is telling people not to use private well water affected by flooding until it's been disinfected and tested.

MacCallum said water levels in the southern half of the province were expected to continue to rise slowly over the next few days, and it would be late in the week before they'd begin to recede.

Emergency officials have been urging residents in flooded areas to evacuate their homes, but many have chosen to stay put — using sandbags and pumps to try to protect their properties.

The Coast Guard has deployed boats and staff to help with evacuations and patrols, and the Red Cross, which has been helping co-ordinate evacuation efforts, is now appealing for funds to assist those affected.

Meanwhile, the four-lane Trans-Canada highway between Fredericton and Moncton remains closed due to the flooding.

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