Drinking Water – Green, yellow and toxic

Here’s what Erin Brockovich has to say about our water which we buy from Ft Lauderdale’s Fiveash water treatment plant:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the false “Fact Checker” public relations ploy recently issued by the City of Fort Lauderdale. The accusations and false information contained in the press piece further demonstrates the complete lack of understanding the City of Fort Lauderdale has when it comes to respect for its consumers, its employees and its elected officials. Sadly, I believe the root of the problems within the management of the City of Fort Lauderdale is in its culture. It is a culture of concealment, superiority and disdain for the very people it is to serve.

Let me begin by posing a simple question… why have the consumers in Fort Lauderdale been bringing to me their grievances about water quality for over five years now? The simplest answer is because the City of Fort Lauderdale has failed. From the time of our initial attempts to reach out to the City of Fort Lauderdale water utility and city management this March, scores of other communities throughout Florida have emailed me requesting intervention with their drinking water quality problems as well. This is impossible. My colleague Bob Bowcock and I do what we can, when we can; we both work full-time jobs.

We are in a National Drinking Water Crisis. There are new drinking water contaminants emerging every few months; cannot address them all, so we selected a basic contaminant, Total Organic Carbon (TOC) as our focus. TOC is pretty much dirt in drinking water. It’s predominantly naturally occurring… and we have no desire to litigate with mother nature. In fact, the charge that we are somehow a litigious organization… is likewise false. We have never litigated a Community Drinking Water System. A quick survey of town hall community meetings across the country demonstrates this point clearly… we are on record discouraging lawsuits at almost every event we are invited to attend, much to the disappointment of some in attendance. Our position and desire to be helpful has been repeatedly made to the City of Fort Lauderdale.

TOC in drinking water, if treated in accordance with industry recommendations and best available technologies, will simultaneously reduce or remove many other drinking water contaminants and stop the formation of toxic disinfection byproducts (both regulated and unregulated); it is where two individuals, trekking across the country, can have the most impact. The best available technologies recommended for decades has been lime softening followed by granular activated carbon filtration OR enhanced coagulation followed by granular activated carbon. Countless consulting engineers, hired for millions of dollars, have repeatedly made these recommendations to the City of Fort Lauderdale.

Here is the problem with the City of Fort Lauderdale: rather then follow USEPA recommendations, rather then follow the recommendations of their own expert consultants, Fort Lauderdale chose to chemically alter its disinfectant as opposed to cleaning the dirt out of the water. This is done by adding ammonia to chlorine. When done properly, this permitted choice of disinfection (monochloramine) is formed. However, when ammonia is added to water with high TOC to sequester chemical reactions, that forms regulated disinfection byproducts, and a laundry list of significant and dangerous consequences arise.

Chloramine use in high TOC water which is not properly treated causes the formation of hundreds of currently NOT being regulated disinfection byproducts which are 1,000 times more toxic than the regulated byproducts to occur. Chloramine use in high TOC water causes nitrification and biofouling, loss of chlorine residual, and corrosive conditions. This is why twice per year, for five weeks per session, Fort Lauderdale performs extremely toxic and dangerous free chlorine burns of the distribution system. The five-week period far exceeds the State of Florida requirements and contradicts Fort Lauderdale’s own prescribed procedures. The best way to describe the practice is this: turn off the ammonia, turn up the chlorine, and burn out the biofilm in the pipes. Think about this for just a moment… a thick blob of biofilm and sludge is dislodged from inside the pipes and ends up flushed into your home’s hot water heater and/or ice-maker, hotel’s water systems and cooling towers. This practice has led to dramatic increases of bacteriological disease outbreaks and has destroyed plumbing systems. Nitrification and related biofilm are responsible for a dramatic increase in lead plumbing fixture leaching into drinking water supplies as the associated bacteria excrete corrosive acids.

Fort Lauderdale’s misuse of chloramine disinfection has led to biofouling, deterioration of infrastructure, immediate, short- and long-term medical conditions and exposure to high concentrations of regulated and unregulated toxic disinfection byproduct contaminants. Bottomline, Fort Lauderdale needs to simply clean out the dirt. By its own admission it sufferers from color of the TOC in the drinking water. Its billion-dollar hospitality, hotel and resort industry are forced to apologize to its guests on its behalf.

Again, my deepest concern with the City of Fort Lauderdale is its culture of concealment, superiority and disdain for the very people it is to serve. Reading the response this morning from the City of Fort Lauderdale leaves me with a sick feeling. A feeling born from a deep-rooted concern if they will go to these lengths to make false accusations, conceal what is truly happening with its drinking water and provide misinformation… then what is really going on in Fort Lauderdale which we have yet to discover?

It is important to note, our investigation includes detailed reading of the 900 page 2017 City of Fort Lauderdale Comprehensive Utility Strategic Master Plan (I’d encourage the City to read it as well), personal interviews with current and past employees, professional consultants to the City, water utility suppliers and vendors and Safe Drinking Water Act regulators and administrators.

Let’s begin with the opening statement of the Ft Lauderdale city press release:

The City of Fort Lauderdale is committed to providing superior quality water that meets or exceeds the stringent regulatory standards for safety under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Unfortunately, an aggressive, litigious organization is using its own unscientific benchmarks as a scare-tactic to draw attention to claims of unsafe drinking water.

Erin Brockovich and the Erin Brockovich Foundation respond to community concerns about drinking water systems and water quality issues all over the country. Often individuals and community groups seeking our help do so only after the community drinking water system has failed to address their concerns. I predicted – word for word- that they would lead with the canned statement, “The City of Fort Lauderdale is committed to providing superior quality water that meets or exceeds the stringent regulatory standards for safety under the Safe Drinking Water Act.” Bob often jokes that this statement is tattooed on the forearms of uneducated water utility managers that don’t know what else to say.

• Erin Brockovich claims that in 2012 the City “stopped reporting their violation of color standard”.

The first three misleading statements are from a June 5 Facebook post about the past ten years of Water Quality Reports.

The City is in compliance with the color standard and therefore is not required to file a report. Please be aware that yellow coloration of drinking water occurs naturally in regions across the nation where water passes through marshlands and flows through peat soils. In the United States, these conditions occur in the Southeast, Northwest, New England, and Great Lakes regions. Although the yellow tint may be less pleasing aesthetically, it presents no health hazard.

This is a cute play with words followed up with the “everybody’s doing it” excuse. What they fail to tell you is that they do in fact violate the Safe Drinking Water Act secondary standard for color often throughout the year… not just on the one day per year they “stage” the sample by temporarily turning off the most colored wells. Furthermore, throughout this diatribe of false information, they are averaging in the results from the smaller, newer, much more advanced Peele-Dixie Water Treatment Plant. Our issue is with the Fiveash Water Treatment Plant which is the cause of most of the water quality problems. The Peele-Dixie Water Treatment Plant is effectively treating the TOC and related color.

The Ft Lauderdale city commission decides what kind of filtration to use for your drinking water – please talk to them about the green/yellow/toxic drinking water they sell to Wilton Manors, Oakland Park, Tamarac, Lauderdale-by-the Sea, Sea Ranch Lakes, Davie and Port Everglades (for cruise ships):

Mayor Dean Trantalis |  dtrantalis@fortlauderdale.gov | 954-828-5314

Assistant:  Scott Wyman | swyman@fortlauderdale.gov

Steve Glassman |  sglassman@fortlauderdale.gov | 954-828-5923

Assistant:  Pratima Raju | praju@fortlauderdale.gov                    

Ben Sorensen | bsorensen@fortlauderdale.gov  | 954-828-5028

Assistant: MJ Mathews | mmathews@fortlauderdale.gov                

Heather Moraitis | hmoraitis@fortlauderdale.gov  | 954-828-5033

Asst: Melissa Coningsby | mconingsby@fortlauderdale.gov   

Robert McKenzie | rmckenzie@fortlauderdale.gov | 954-828-5011

Assistant:  Tracy Roach | troach@fortlauderdale.gov            

Send emails to their assistants for a better chance of the commissioners reading your emails.  Tell them to stop stealing $20m from their utility fund.  The city manager, Lee Feldman (lfeldman@fortlauderdale.gov) says he drinks water “straight from the tap”. He asks residents where in the budget they could cut $20m.  In 2018, a $200m utility bond was borrowed to make up for the $100m stolen from the utility fund since sewer lines are bursting all over Ft Lauderdale spilling 20 million gallons of raw sewage into streets and canals.