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Six water providers in Broward missed testing deadline

Despite nine years notice, Plantation missed a deadline to check for asbestos in the water supply — by 18 months — and is notifying every homeowner now of its mistake.

Plantation’s utility was one of six water-service providers in Broward County that missed December 2011 deadlines to test for asbestos. The others were Davie, Deerfield Beach, Lauderhill, Margate and Royal Utility, a private utility that serves part of Coral Springs.

State health officials said no asbestos was ever detected in subsequent tests for all the water providers.

The test was supposed to be done once sometime between January and December 2011 — and agencies are on a nine-year cycle to do it.

In Plantation, the test wasn’t conducted until June 2013. Notification of the error to the city’s 26,000 water customers was required by the Florida Department of Health. Notices mailed out in the November water bill assure residents that there are no problems, and asbestos was not detected. Plantation officials called it an “oversight.”

“It was a sampling delay on our part,” said Chuck Flynn, the city’s utilities director. “It was human error. In the future, it won’t happen again.”

In Davie, the testing was done quickly enough — on Jan. 24, 2012 — so notification to residents wasn’t necessary, said town spokesman Phillip Holste. Still, the town hired a manager to keep up with government regulations, he said.

Lauderhill also did their testing in January 2012, one month late, and sent residents a letter apologizing for it, especially since their water system “is susceptible to asbestos contamination” because of its pipes.

“As our customers, you have a right to know what happened,” stated the letter mailed last year. “During 2011 we did not monitor for asbestos and therefore cannot be sure of the quality of our drinking water with respect to this constituent during that time.”

Leslie Johnson, Lauderhill spokeswoman, said Wednesday the city is now committed to yearly testing, even though it’s not required.

Margate did sample on time — but sampled in the wrong spot. Staff mistakenly collected water from the water plant instead of the water in the pipes, said Douglas Smith, assistant city manager. A notice was posted last year on the website.

Royal Utility said an increase in population caused it to adjust its testing schedule, and “we incorrectly tested under the previously established cycle for a lower population.” It said it has a new testing cycle, ensuring the deadline isn’t missed again.

In Plantation, Steve Urich, the utility’s assistant director, said the department also created a new job — a Regulatory Compliance Coordinator— “so that there is additional oversight to prevent a lapse of this nature in the future.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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