Hillsborough Water Fails EPA Test
By TED BYRD Originally
TAMPA – In March, Hillsborough County’s public drinking water failed bacteria safety guidelines for the second time in six months.
Water officials said the levels fell back below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits within 24 hours, so no warnings were issued to boil water.
About 46,000 residents in the northwest area of the county will get letters this week describing what happened and what is being done to prevent the problem in the future.
“We are trying to find out why it’s happening repeatedly,” said Sherri Lonon, community relations coordinator with the county water department.
About 120 routine tests are done on water in the system each month. EPA guidelines dictate that if more than 5 percent of the tests come back positive for total coliform bacteria, the public must be notified.
In the northwest service area, 7.64 percent of tests came back positive in March. In October, levels also were high in that area and in the county’s south-central service area in Brandon.
When the guidelines aren’t met, the county retests all areas, looking for the more dangerous fecal coliform and E. coli. None were found in either October or March, Lonon said. “We didn’t find any of the really bad guys on the retest.”
Still, the initial high readings mean some people – infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems – might be at increased risks. Brian Miller, environmental supervisor for the Health Department, recommended they ask their physicians whether they should stop drinking tap water.
Hillsborough has set up a partnership with the University of South Florida to help identify what might have caused the bacteria growth in the water system.