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Santa Rosa Commissioners seek info on Midway water contamination

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(Update: There is a new water-distribution site for today. Midway responds to water contamination. The statement can be found at the end of this story.)

Colten Wright wants answers.

The Santa Rosa County commissioner, who represents the Midway area of District 5, is trying to find out how water being pumped to dozens of homes on Soundside Drive became contaminated when a contractor mistakenly connected into a sewer line. Residents are being asked to boil the water. Bottled water also is available today and Wednesday.

Wright said Tuesday morning he’s focusing on getting relief, such as portable showers and clothes-washing stations, and not on finger-pointing, fist-pounding or name-calling. He has made inquiries about the chain of events that led to the contamination, but has not been successful. When Midway Water System officials blamed the problem on the Midway Fire Department flushing and testing the water lines, Wright said “My ‘BS’ detector went off. He then began seeking information from the state department of health and the state department of environmental protection. His detective work will continue, he pledged.

“I want to know when, how and why this happened and make sure it never happens again,” he said. “Once I get all the facts, I’ll make a statement on this issue.”

District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole called the situation “unforgivable” and assured Wright that the board will support his efforts and “be there to help our citizens.”

“I’ve got your back on it,” he said.

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Santa Rosa County
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Commissioners decided to draft a letter to the water utility seeking information related to the incident. They acknowledged that the private company is not subject to the state’s public records law, but hoped they would comply.

“This will give them the opportunity to operate in the sunshine,” Wright said.

Officials with Midway Water System declined to comment on the county’s demand for information. A second call — made at 4 p.m. — went to the utility's after-hours number.

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection website says “DEP is actively investigating the illicit cross-connection from a residential sewage line to a potable water line in Gulf Breeze in Santa Rosa County. At this time, the cross-connection has been eliminated and DEP and the Florida Department of Health (DOH) are coordinating to review results collected by the Midway Water System and the city of Gulf Breeze from various locations throughout the distribution system.”
Bottled water is available at Midway Water System, 4971 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563 on the following days:

  • Monday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The DEP website further states "Midway fully expects to recover its expenses from the parties at fault, but also realizes that our customers cannot wait for however long that might take to get potable water in their homes again.

Midway Water System is committed to providing safe, reliable drinking water to our customers and takes any contamination of our water supply very seriously.

In late September, around 430 residences of Soundside Drive in the Midway area of Santa Rosa County were impacted by a contamination of their water supply following the cross-connection of a single home’s sewage outflow to the potable water supply.

The cross-connection occurred when a private contractor, hired by a homebuilder to connect the new home’s sewage outflow to City of Gulf Breeze’s sewer main, misidentified the underground pipes and incorrectly connected to Midway Water System’s potable water line.

Many of our customers are understandably frustrated, as are we. We have worked non-stop to correct this serious error and ensure that our customers can be certain that the water supplied to their homes is safe.

It is the unwavering policy of the Midway Water System to have an inspector on-site any time one of our water mains is tapped or connected to. In this instance, our pipes should never have been touched. As such, no notice was given to Midway Water System of the work being performed and so no inspector was on site.

Much speculation has occurred as to how such a cross-connection could have happened, especially in regard to the identification and color of different utility pipes. These are relevant questions that are being pursued, but it would be inappropriate to put forth any explanation before a thorough investigation has been completed.

We began receiving reports of low water pressure and clogged faucets on Sept. 25, and flushed the lines six times between Sept. 27 and Oct. 15. Midway Water System’s potable water supply is chlorinated in accordance with the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1996, and, under normal operation, flushing the lines is an effective way of disinfecting them.

At the same time, Midway Water System staff visited the affected homes to remove material from the faucet screens, shower heads and appliance filters. Midway flushed the area repeatedly, took samples for testing, and contracted two plumbing companies, Certified Plumbing and Boyd Plumbing, to assist with flushing homes and cleaning filters.

The cross-connection was discovered and immediately corrected on Oct. 18, and a boil water notice was issued to the affected customers.

The contamination was contained to the area between 4115 Soundside Drive and 5012 Soundside Drive, including

Nature’s Cove and The Waters subdivisions and adjacent streets.

Higher-pressure lines along U.S. 98 and Nantahala Beach Road prevented the contaminated water from entering the greater Midway Water System.

To date, Midway Water System, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the City of Gulf Breeze have obtained samples from 346 affected residences, leaving about 84 left to be tested. Midway Water System anticipates the results of those tests by Thursday, Oct. 28. As samples are found to be free of contamination, residents are being contacted directly by phone to inform them that their water is safe to use.

In the meantime, bottled water is being provided to affected customers at the Community Life Methodist Church, 4115 Soundside Drive, and will be available until the boil water notice is rescinded. Residents should continue to use an alternative water source until testing can be done in their homes to confirm the water meets all bacteriological standards.

Midway Water System is reimbursing impacted customers for the cost associated with the cleaning, repair or replacement of their in-house plumbing, as well as many in-home appliance and faucet filters. Midway does not believe that entire home plumbing systems require replacement. If a customer has scheduled service from a company other than Certified Plumbing or Boyd Plumbing, they should contact Midway Water System before work is performed to have their expenses approved for reimbursement.

Midway fully expects to recover its expenses from the parties at fault, but also realizes that our customers cannot wait for however long that might take to get potable water in their homes again.

For more information and the latest updates, please see the following resources:

Midway Water System Updates: http://midwaywater.com/whats_new.asp

FDEP Advisory Page:

https://floridadep.gov/MidwayWaterSystem

Sampling Results: https://depedms.dep.state.fl.us/Oculus/servlet/operation..."