Seminole County Commission addresses water quality concerns, says headlines are overblown

The Seminole County Board of Commissioners is working to address water quality concerns after an Orlando Sentinel investigation revealed contaminants within the water. 

Commissioners are handling a balancing act – the board members wanted people to know they do take water quality issues seriously, but they also felt the headlines about the water may have been a bit over-blown.

Commissioner Andria Herr was the first to address this.

"I think we have, to some degree, really scared people beyond what we need to be frightened," said Commissioner Herr. "The reality of this is, it was ten years ago."

For the commission, the problem is there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle; people are already worried. Amanda Gordon spoke up at the meeting. She says she does plan to reach out to a water treatment company to see whether it would be feasible to have a new system installed in her home.

"How do I know? Do I have something wrong with me and I don’t know what it is, from all these toxins in our water?" said Gordon. "I’m just very concerned."

The contaminant in question 1, 4-Dioxane. It’s found in things like detergents, shampoos, and cosmetics. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has labeled it a contaminant of concern. That’s a specific definition, which was addressed in the meeting by Mary Thomas, the Project Manager for the consulting firm Seminole County has newly hired. 

"If you drink above the health advisory limit for 70 years or more, your likelihood of getting cancer is increased by 1 in a million," explained Thomas.

The federal government doesn’t have any set guidelines or limits for how much should be flagged. The State of Florida set that at 0.35 parts per billion. That’s one of the strictest standards in the nation.

Seminole County passed that threshold in 2013 and met it in 2016. It’s been below the advisory level ever since. Even still, attorney Mark Nejame says he’s already been contacted by multiple people about this.

"They’ve had cancer in their families, they’ve lost loved ones, and they believe it’s attributable to the water issue that’s occurring in Seminole County," said Nejame.

Nejame is partnering up with attorney John Overchuck, who has handled a water quality case in Seminole County in the past. Both of them say they would like to help the commission.

"We’re concerned if there was not proper notice given out to citizens, that here they were exposing themselves, and we want to get to the bottom of that," added Nejame. 

The commission has promised to expand its water quality testing and report those numbers more frequently.  It has hired a consulting firm to help with that.

The commission chair also plans to write to the EPA asking for the development of federal standards.