Seminole aims for transparency amid toxic chemical in water findings
Seminole County officials are taking steps to be transparent as it tests the county’s water supply of a toxic chemical.
The move comes after an investigative series by the Orlando Sentinelpublished earlier this month revealed the presence of 1,4 Dioxane — a so-called “forever chemical” in residential drinking water.
Seminole County leaders discussed the plans at a meeting Tuesday, which includes taking steps to ensure residents’ water is safe from the dangers of the synthetic industrial chemical. It’s believed to have seeped into water systems from a former Siemens manufacturing plant.
"It has also been documented that it was mishandled and caused impacts to employees to the ground and groundwater," said Kim Ornberg, Seminole's director of Environmental Services, during Tuesday's meeting.
1,4 Dioxane was first identified in three county water treatment plants during a 2013 Environmental Protection Agency-mandated sampling along with other unregulated chemicals. The results of the 2013 and 2014 sampling were published in the 2015 annual water quality report as regulated and required by the state and federal agencies. However, Seminole residents were largely unaware of the chemical — which has been listed by the EPA as a likely carcinogen. The Sentinel said in its report, it was unable to find anyone who knew of the 1,4 Dioxane's presence.
On Sunday, Seminole chairman of the board of county commissioners, Amy Lockhart, addressed the issue in a guest column in the Orlando Sentinel. In it, she urged the EPA to quickly adopt regulations for 1,4 Dioxane.
On Tuesday, Ornberg said Environmental Services has expanded its water sampling and will begin its own assessment.
Emily Turner is a Lake Mary resident. She’s lived on a private well for 20 years but began drinking bottled water after the Sentinel report was published. Turner spoke out during the Tuesday meeting, hoping there will be more governance over companies dumping chemicals.
“I feel like there needs to be some oversight over companies that are doing that, and I think that they are taking it very, very seriously. And I look forward to transparency, and they're testing the private well,” Turner said.
In addition to looking for 1,4 Dioxane, the county will also be testing for another toxic chemical PFAS. Seminole County officials will also establish a website for residents to keep track of publicly available water data as the county samples water systems.
Mike Morgan, a Lake Mary resident and an environmental lawyer, said he was happy with the commissioner’s concern but wants more action.
“I think limiting the levels is good, right? It's not the best. This is a chemical constituent that should be at zero. That's really what we should be striving for here is none,” he said.
Seminole County is expecting to present a full report on its expanded water sampling in November.