ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A boil-water notice issued over the weekend affected about 37,000 residents of St. Johns County.
The notice was issued Friday night because traces of E. coli bacteria were found in the county's water system.
The boil-water notice was lifted on Sunday night, but it turned out that there never was E. coli in the water system, officials said.
The county said the E. coli reading could have been caused by human error, something that went wrong in the transport of the sample or even what was used to collect the sample.
But officials emphasized E. coli was never in the customers' water supply.
“That's our bottom line. Our concern is our customers and their public health and safety,” said Tony Cubbedge, environmental division director for the St. Johns County Utility Department. “We know that it was probably a little bit of an inconvenience, but we would rather err on the side of caution.”
People living in the southern part of the county, from County Road 214 down to the Flagler County line, were told to bring their water to a rolling boil for 1 minute before drinking it or cooking with it.
Some restaurants in the area were affected by drinks they couldn't serve.
“We will never know the root cause. There could be a lot of factors from sampling, from transport, analysis. But that sample has been processed,” Cubbedge said.
The county's offices are usually closed on the weekends, but because of the E. coli threat, the county brought in staff, which cost the county extra money. Officials said it was worth it because customer safety is the top priority.
The county also had about 50,000 bottles of water ready to be distributed in schools if the threat stretched into the week.
“We haven't really looked at a cost,” Cubbedge said. “Obviously, there's a lot of extra time involved this weekend with staff, (and) of course with the inconvenience to our customers as well.”
Officials said they are now reviewing the incident and their response to see if there are any areas that could be improved if something similar happens in the future.