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Meeting to Discuss Drinking Water Concerns in Melbourne, Florida

Photography by Stel Bailey
Published July 21, 2019
Discussing Drinking Water Concerns in Melbourne

Communities in Melbourne, Florida came together for a town hall meeting to discuss their concerns with the quality and safety of the drinking water. It started with a stench coming from their faucet and then news that there was an alga bloom in Lake Washington, where about two-thirds of the city's water comes from. 

Some people took the initiative to do their testing and others brought medical documents to share. A local mom, Nancy Kirby, shared her experience on social media as the water issues unfolded. She explained that all four of her children ended up with infections and, after experiencing a stench from her faucet, decided to do her own at-home water test. The test was positive for coliform bacteria. Kirby has become a leading voice in the community on the drinking water concerns. 

There were questions about infrastructure. Under normal circumstances, Florida's drinking water is safe unless the water becomes contaminated. According to the EPA, polluted groundwater can reach drinking water systems and cause serious public health threats, particularly to children. For instance, when drinking water in a specific area becomes contaminated, the local government sends out "boil water notices," and tells you to boil your drinking water. Boiling kills most types of parasites, bacteria, and viruses but increases concentrations of other toxic chemicals due to the evaporation of water. 

Contaminated water can enter through pipe bursts when existing mains are repaired or replaced, potentially leading to the introduction of contaminated soil or debris into the system. Contaminates getting into the drinking water are concerning for Brevard County residents because scientists found chemical waste in lagoon wildlife from the space industry and military bases. Chemicals such s TCE, PCBs, DDT, and the emerging chemical is known as per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

The meeting lasted two hours. Aging stressed, or poorly maintained water infrastructure can cause the quality of piped drinking water to deteriorate below standard levels. Rapid population growth and inadequate pollution regulations are complicating our water quality issues. The more we recognize and invest in these issues, the more we can protect public health.  

Lake Washington 
Lake Washington

The water issues in Florida are complex and the discussion isn’t going away anytime soon. Fight For Zero did a water quality concern poll prior to the meeting and found that 88% of people are not very confident that the tap water in their home is safe to drink.

Read More:

Melbourne tests drinking water amid fears of toxic algae

Learn More:

In the United States, a few key laws aim to safeguard health from pollution and contaminates:

The 1972 Clean Water Act is the country's main tool to controlling source water pollution.

The 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act authorizes the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against contaminants that are naturally occurring and/or caused by human activity. 

The EPA's 1991 Lead and Copper Rule requires systems to monitor drinking water rat customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppt or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10 percent of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion and safeguard health. 

The safety of water from private wells are NOT REGULATED by the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. More than one in five wells tested from 1991-2004 contained one or more contaminates at concentration create than a human-health benchmark.

A 2016 study found that levels of poly-fluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exceeded federally recommended safety levels in public drinking water supplies for 6 million people in the United States.

The Environmental Protection Agencies Legislation snd regulations.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Document Management System: OCULUS

National Geographic: Water Pollution Explained

Coal-burning plants in particular discharge some of the most dangerous heavy metals on earth, including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and selenium. 

Were you at the meeting? What are your thoughts?

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