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Jacksonville neighborhood gets clean water

Mayor Alvin Brown signs bill to provide money for water lines in Larsen community

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Living without clean drinking water has been the reality for people living in the Larsen community -- until now.

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown signed a bill Saturday that provides money for water lines in that neighborhood, where many had been relying on well water.

People said they are grateful and they've been waiting for the change.

"We raised our children with dirty water, and we had a home day care and it was nasty," said Mary Seymour.

Seymour said that's what life was like in Larsen, the small Jacksonville community about three miles from downtown.

The "water was brown in our tub, turned everything orange. Everything was pure orange. We had to use snowball, snowball every day. That's how nasty the water was in this neighborhood," Seymour said.

Many of the residents said they went to the park or the store for water to drink. Seymour has since been able to get city water and now everyone in Larsen will join her.

City council member Lori Boyer sponsored the bill after hearing from residents trying for years to get clean water. JEA stopped installing water and sewer lines back in 1980s so homes built before that without water lines would not get them put in unless residents paid for them.

Boyer said that, combined with possible water contaminants from nearby city facilities, meant it was time to act.

"They had clean drinking water when they built their houses with their wells. It's now got contaminants reaching into it and we're partly responsible for that from city facilities," said Boyer. "It's just not right that we wouldn't participate in the solution."

The total cost of the project will be $900,000. The city will pay $413,000 and Builders Care, a nonprofit construction company, will pay the rest.

"To us at Builders Care, this is what we were called to do and really what this is going to do is help spawn other projects," said Builders Care Executive Director Matt Wilfort, adding that "we can come out in the Larsen community (and) provide those low to no construction cost services on the inside of some of these homes as well."

Work is set to start in 30 to 60 days and hopefully be completed within a year.