Open Letter to Seacoast Utility Authority Customers Concerning Recent Flint, Michigan Water Supply Issues
Recent news out of Flint, Michigan reminds us that as critical as safe drinking water is to public health, a public water supply utility’s operational transparency and clarity are equally important. To that end, as the owner and operator of the public water supply, treatment, pumping and piping systems serving Lake Park, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, the south end of Juno Beach, and nearby unincorporated areas, Seacoast is pleased to explain why the difficulties plaguing Flint’s water supply do not exist locally. I’ll start by directing attention to the following two documents:
Specifically addressing the Flint, Michigan issue, it is essential to note some fundamental differences between that system and Seacoast’s. Primary among these is the difference in source water. Flint’s problems, at least the most publicized ones, seem to be related to the fact that the City’s current raw water source is a river. This typically means that it contains material swept up and sometimes dissolved in runoff (drainage) which can be quite challenging to remove in the treatment plant, particularly one beset with fiscal issues. Further, river water can be aggressive, meaning that if it is not properly stabilized or buffered in the treatment plant before release to the public, it will tend to corrode metallic pipeline and plumbing. Aggressive, unstable water can cause lead and copper leaching from plumbing joints and fixtures into the water supply as well as other highly undesirable impacts. In this regard, it is important to note that as in many older water utilities, service lines connecting Flint’s water mains to customer plumbing are made of lead – a condition which does not exist within Seacoast’s service area.
Seacoast, on the other hand, draws its raw water from 38 wells averaging 150 ft. in depth plus 3 wells approximately 1,500 feet deep. Local runoff cannot find its way to well pump intakes at those depths. So while Seacoast’s source water is highly mineralized, it contains none of the offensive material that one might find in the storm water runoff to many rivers, particularly those running through densely populated industrial areas. Further, Seacoast’s local ground (well) water supply tends to be less aggressive than most surface waters, a fact confirmed by local lead and copper test results that are consistently within federal, state and local drinking water standards. The Consumer Confidence Report provides additional detail.
Finally, though the oldest of Seacoast’s water distribution pipelines have been in service for about 60 years, regular visual inspection performed by engineers and licensed operators reveal no signs of interior deterioration. In addition to its well-buffered ground water source, Seacoast’s newly commissioned, state of the art reverse osmosis/nanofiltration water treatment plant is operated around the clock by highly experienced and licensed water treatment plant operators whose careers depend upon providing a consistently safe, stable, non-corrosive finished water to Seacoast’s customers. Further, Seacoast’s 484 miles of water distribution piping, 3,500 fire hydrants and 7,200 valves are inspected and maintained on a regular schedule which includes line flushing, valve and hydrant maintenance and marking, and timely replacement of infrastructure that is approaching the end of its useful life.
This information, plus Seacoast’s capital budget and much, much more can be accessed at www.sua.com. In summary, Seacoast is blessed with a higher quality raw water source than Flint’s appears to be, is properly funded, professionally operated, and highly responsive to customer questions and concerns. I hope that this addresses any concerns you may have, but if more detail is required, Seacoast will be pleased to provide it.
Rim Bishop, Executive Director
Seacoast Utility Authority