Published: May 17, 2018

    According to Government Memo Florida Water Tests Being Conducted Incorrectly

    Residents of Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale in Florida may want to avoid drinking their water after Boyd Corbin, a Wilton Manors mayoral candidate, raised concerns about hazardous contaminants found in his drinking water.

    The issue began when Corbin purchased a hot tub and filled it up with water from his hose. According to WLRN the water inside was green, which caused Corbin to order independent water tests from two separate companies to determine what was in his home’s water supply.  Corbin expected to find algae, but what he found was even more frightening.

    One of Corbin’s water tests found the level of trihalomethanes (or THMs) to be more than six times the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The level for haloacetic acids for this same test was over three times the EPA limit.

    THMs are disinfection by-products (DBPs) are created when disinfectants like chlorine or chloramine react with naturally occurring organic compounds in your water. THMs are linked to several chronic health conditions, including asthma, eczema, and heart disease. THMs increase your risk of developing cancer, particularly bladder cancer. Haloacetic acids are also known to increase your risk of cancer, which is why Corbin’s findings immediately found coverage in local news outlets.

    While the Florida Health Department claimed that the test results were invalid, the timing of Corbin’s tests raised questions about how and when the local water departments conduct mandatory water testing. Corbin conducted his test during what is known as a “chlorine burn,” when officials switch from chloramine to chlorine as the secondary disinfectant in cases where other contaminants are detected.

    In the past Fort Lauderdale has conducted five-week chlorine burns twice per year. (Wilton Manors purchases much of its groundwater from Fort Lauderdale.) The Department of Health in Broward County, in response to the coverage of Corbin’s water tests, stated that they do not conduct water testing for THMs during chlorine burns because, in their words, these events constitute an “abnormal operating condition.” Levels of THMs are known to spike during chlorine burns, but that is precisely when the county stops testing for them.

    This information drew sharp criticism from the EPA. In a letter dated April 20th the EPA’s Director of the Water Testing for Region 4, Mary Walker, suggested that the department in Broward County has been misinterpreting when water tests should be conducted.

    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection then released a public memo stating that chlorine burns should be considered “normal operating conditions,” and that routine water tests should be performed regardless of whether a chlorine burn is taking place. Furthermore, the memo stated that a chlorine burn should never last more than 3 weeks.

    For Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors residents this news is deeply concerning. It seems the local water department has been purposefully avoiding water testing during times when cancer-causing chemicals are exceeding limits in the water supply.

    “Before I got my full house water filter installed I was worried about taking a shower,” Corbin stated to WLRN. He added, “I was very worried about drinking water, especially during the 10 weeks out of the year when your water smells like chlorine.” Don’t let high levels of chlorine or THMs make their way into your drinking water. A whole house water filter and a special shower filter will eliminate these problems by effectively reducing harmful contaminants before they reach your tap.