UPDATE: Apalachicola boil water notice in place through the weekend

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This story has been updated Friday afternoon to reflect the latest developments.

The  boil water notice for Apalachicola’s water supply will remain in place until at least Tuesday after a pair of water samples tested positive for bacteria Thursday.

The locations that tested positive were at Well #7, for the second consecutive time, and at 47 Highway 98, not far from the gas station near Prado, read a news release from the city..

The city has also tested for bacteria at various distribution points in the system, after the water has been treated, that are closer to individual taps and faucets. Bacteria has come back clean from those tests, but the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has protocols in place that require the city issue a precautionary boil water notice.when bacteria appears at the well site.

City Manager Travis Wade, who along with Rhett Butler, who oversees the water department, said the city has been besieged by calls ever since a “perfect storm” of broken pumps and replaced well equipment forced the precautionary boil water notice.

The city operates three wells, at 29 Chapman Road; off Bluff Road near the airport; and off Highway 98. To draw sufficient water, the wells are 425 feet deep and replacing the submersible portions can involve considerable time and expense. 

That work ran about $60,000 in regularly budgeted costs, and would not have led to the boil water notice had it not been that a pump at a second site went out as well. Normally routine work does not require such a notice because the city can turn to two other working wells to serve the system if the replacement site needs further work.

Wade said all three wells date back to 2002, and have been without annual maintenance since then.

In news releases yesterday and today, the city wrote that Rowe Drilling, the well drilling company directing city staff in cleaning procedures, conducted aggressive cleaning on Well #7 Friday morning.

Samples were taken afterward and submitted to the lab in Tallahassee, read the release, with lab staff agreeing to provide results through the weekend, even though they are closed on weekends.

Samples will be again taken on Sunday afternoon and delivered to the lab Monday morning, to be tested on Tuesday morning. 

“Hopefully we will get good news from those samples,” read the release. “We continue to wonder when the boil water notice will be rescinded. We wish we could answer that question with certainty. Until this site receives a negative result, the boil water notice remains. We are hoping ‘today’ is the day, but that can't be said with certainty.”

The boil water notice has been in place for over a week, and along with inconvenience to residents, has added to costs for local businesses, including the city’s largest oyster dealers, Leavins Seafood and Water Street Seafood.

Commissioner Anita Grove said Leavins has had to bring in water from the Eastpoint system, while Water Street has had to send oysters to be shucked elsewhere and then returned her for distribution.

Wade said the city continues to do “super chlorination” of its well, and noted that this is to fully clean the well, but does not mean that the city water that flows out of taps has a higher level of chlorine or its byproducts.

He said the city has also expended $270,000  for a complete cleaning of both the interior and exterior of its groundwater storage tank, which will contribute to improved water quality moving through the system

“We want to win the water contest in Florida,” said Butler. “We want to be more proactive than reactive.”

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, Mayor Brenda Ash said the city’s workers have been doing all they can.

“Our purpose is to make sure you're safe,” said Ash. “Unfortunately we have to go through that process and at the end of the day we hope to bring clean water. We are striving to do the best we can do. All the staff have been working overtime, and pulling the team together.”

Wade said the city’s drinking water staff “has been working nearly 24 hours a day, with calls as late as 11:50 p.m. and as early as 6 a.m.”

“They’re working hard all day and working all night,” he said. “When you see them, say hi to them, say thank you. They're taking the brunt of it and their phones are going crazy right now.”

Wade said that residents with questions or comments are advised to reach out directly to city staff at City Hall, or by email.

At the regular meeting, Commissioners Despina George and Grove both called for ongoing communication from the city. Donna Duncan was absent.

“Communication is paramount, daily if not several times a day,” said Grove. “For some people it’s a serious medical issue.”

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There’s still a boil water notice in effect in Apalachicola, with city officials saying it will be lifted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection any day now.

City Manager Travis Wade told city commissioners Tuesday afternoon that the most recent samples, submitted Monday from the well and the distribution areas, had showed no bacteria. “All came back clean,” he said.

The DEP had called for the boil water notice after a sample from the city’s well had showed an unacceptable level of bacteria.  “There is super chlorination going on that well this afternoon,” he said, noting the city sent in more water samples Wednesday morning.

“The boil water notice is still in effect,” he said Tuesday. “The DEP can't release the boil water notice.”

Wade said the well had not been maintained in the past, with annual maintenance now recommended. “We’re creating an annual maintenance contract,” he said.

“Our purpose is to make sure you're safe,” said Mayor Brenda Ash. “Unfortunately we have to go through that process and at the end of the day we hope to bring clean water. We are striving to do the best we can do. All the staff have been working overtime, and pulling the team together.”

Wade said the city’s drinking water staff “has been working nearly 24 hours a day, with calls as late as 11:50 p.m. and as early as 6 a.m.”

“They’re working hard all day and working all night,” he said. “When you see them, say hi to them, say thank you. They're taking the brunt of it and their phones are going crazy right now.”

Asked by Commissioner Adriane Elliott when the boil water notice might be lifted, Wade said “I would have thought we would have lifted it Saturday, then Sunday, then Monday. It just hasn’t happened.

“We’ve talked to water engineers who are also trying to work on a solution,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to make it happen. I can't make any promises.”

He said the city would keep residents notified on its website and Facebook page, as well as local media.

Wade said that residents with questions or comments are advised to reach out directly to city staff at City Hall, or by email.

Commissioners Despina George and Anita Grove both called for ongoing communication from the city. Donna Duncan was absent.

“Communication is paramount, daily if not several times a day,” said Grove. “For some people it’s a serious medical issue.”

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  • Whatever

    I nearly threw my stomach up last week before the boil water notice was issued. This was after the heavy rain when our toilets wouldn’t flush. I blamed my nausea on a take-out salad but now believe my illness was bacterial water that we pay way too much for, don’t drink and causes violent vomiting

    Wednesday, June 8 Report this