The Florida Department of Health is accusing a South Florida city of misleading their residents about the quality of their drinking water, but their mayor insists that “everything is fine.”
The City of Pembroke Pines failed to meet compliance standards during a late 2016 water quality test. The presence of chemicals known as total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) exceeded allowable levels. These chemicals are known to cause long-term health problems and are thought to have immediate health impacts in high doses.
In compliance with state law, the city sent a letter out to residents to inform them of the poor test results. Shortly thereafter, on Feb. 23, 2017, residents received a second letter, stating their water “was always safe”. The Florida Department of Health then issued a warning to the city for misleading their residents, and has since launched an investigation.
“The water is currently not meeting the standards for disinfection byproducts,” Florida Department of Health spokesman Bob LaMendola said in a statement to Local 10 News. The health department fined the city $2,250 in early March for continually failing to meet compliance standards.
An investigative reporter with Local 10 News met up with the city’s mayor, Frank Ortiz, who vehemently denied that water quality was an issue for his residents.
“There’s nothing wrong, Amy, nothing wrong with the water in Pembroke Pines”, Ortiz told reporter Amy Viteri. When confronted with the fact that the health department said the water was not technically safe, Ortiz said, “well, we disagree with the health department, obviously they’re going to fine us the $2,400, that is normal…but everything is fine“.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich warns that misleading information issued by utilities companies are common, and the dangers of TTHMs are under reported. She also insists that officials will selectively test for certain contaminants, but omit others from their reports.
“The water utility will tell you the water meets the standards, which is sort of true…but not the truth. The water will exceed the standards… but they just won’t test for [TTHMs]”, said Brockovich, in response to another potential Florida water quality scandal. Brockovich claims that both notices are misleading, and says her “water team” will be contacting the city of Pembroke Pines this week.
“Everything is fine” seems to be the new mantra for corrupt government officials, who clearly do not care about the safety of their residents. Frank Ortiz’s tune has also been sung by officials in Flint, East Chicago, Brooklyn, and countless cities across the United States where test results are being fudged and/or downplayed.
Flint residents finally won a long-fought battle for improved infrastructure today, as 18,000 contaminated pipes are going to be replaced—but the project will not be complete until 2020. This situation has been, and will continue to be, completely unacceptable. Similar projects need to begin now, but some of those cities will probably not gain recognition for years to come.
Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird