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Jacksonville Beach Public Works Officials Say Water Safe To Drink

Paul Hamilton
Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville Beach Public Works officials say it's safe for residents to drink water from the tap. That’s after the utility sent out advisories saying water tested last year had higher-than-normal chemical concentrations of a contaminant.

The utility says it didn't immediately notify customers because chemical levels didn’t pose a health threat.

The contaniment, trihalomethane, is a byproduct of the utility practice of treating water with chlorine. The federal government regulates how much can safely exist in drinking water.

When averaging last year’s quarterly tests, Jax Beach Public Works found one of its six sites had a concentration slightly above that threshold.

The utility sent samples to the Florida Environmental Protection Department for review. State water-quality specialist Joni Petry is familiar with the process.

“They submit it to the lab. It can take some time to process. It can take some time to verify that laboratory report, get signed off by the lab manager and then it goes back to the system,” she said.

Petry said that’s why water advisories were sent out months after the initial findings. She also said the levels of trihalomethanes found at Jax Beach are only harmful in large doses over a long time.

Still, studies have found connections between the substance and illness, especially in kids, older people and pregnant women.

Colorado State University Professor Emeritus Jay Nuckols, who authored one of those studies, found high levels of exposure are linked to cancer, kidney failure and birth defects.

He said he doesn’t understand why the advisory was sent so late.

“There’s something called the principle of erring on the side of caution and then there’s also a widespread adoption and embracement by the public of ‘right to know.’ We have the right to know what’s in our water, what’s in our air,” he said.

Nuckols said European countries have a trihalomethane threshold close to zero.

Meanwhile, Jax Beach water has since tested within normal rates of contamination.