Boil water notice in effect until at least Sunday morning for portions of Southside including Tinseltown, Town Center: JEA

E. coli bacteria found in wells that supply water treatment plant in Sandalwood area

A day after E. coli bacteria were found Friday in wells on Saints Road in the Sandalwood area, a precautionary boil water notice affecting a large swath of the city’s Southside, including nearly 3,000 commercial customers, remained in effect.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after E. coli bacteria were found Friday in wells on Saints Road in the Sandalwood area, a precautionary boil water notice affecting a large swath of the city’s Southside, including nearly 3,000 commercial customers, remained in effect.

The bacteria were found at a sample point before JEA’s treatment process in water that supplies the utility’s Oakridge Water Treatment Plant.

JEA said samples tested on Saturday were clear, and if results are clear again on Sunday morning, the precautionary boil water advisory will be lifted for the Southside area that includes more than 19,500 JEA customers. Among those are 16,678 residential customers and 2,905 commercial customers, a JEA spokesperson said.

For a map of the affected area, click here.

News4JAX spoke to a few businesses in the Southside area on Saturday. Restaurants such as Copeland’s of New Orleans and K-Bop Korean Kitchen said they are using limited drink menus to adapt to the boil advisory.

K-Bop Korean Kitchen also said the boba tea that’s served is boiled before it is sold so that item is not affected by the advisory.

Francis Cruz, who manages Soupa Noodle Bar in Tinseltown, said this has never happened to him before.

“I’ve been a manager at this area for like the past 15 years. I’ve never experienced this before, " Cruz said. “It is concerning. I just got off the phone with the health inspector, just to make sure everything is good, making sure that we’re doing everything properly.”

The good news at Soupa Noodle Bar is the mainstays on their menu are boiled anyway. But the restaurant was still having to put a pause on using the dishwasher and soda fountain. It brought in bottled water and only offered takeout Friday night.

“Maybe a couple hundred dollars, maybe $500, maybe more, who knows,” Cruz said when asked how much that will cost. “It just depends on how long it will take.”

We reached out to St. Johns Town Center to see how this is affecting restaurants there but we have not yet heard back.

A spokesperson with the University of North Florida, which was also affected, said that they’ve alerted students and staff.

JEA said the utility is working to ensure the drinking water is not contaminated in the interest of community health and safety. State regulations also require that water utilities have two consecutive days of negative samples from a laboratory.

Officials said JEA tested for and did not find E. coli in the distribution system, the plant’s water treatment system. JEA closed the Oakridge Water Treatment Plant after confirming the results on Friday morning.

Messaging woes

JEA also admitted it had difficulty getting its message about the boil water advisory out to some customers. JEA said it alerted local media outlets and posted messaging on its social media platforms early Friday afternoon and also sent notifications via text, phone and email to impacted customers.

But the utility learned late Friday night that messaging did not reach all customers in a timely manner.

JEA said it also posted notices and signs at apartment complexes in the Southside area to ensure residents were aware.

“JEA leaders apologize for the delay and are working to address the issues,” a spokesperson wrote in a news release.

Residents in the impacted area are encouraged to check JEA.com/bwa and local media for updates.

What is E. coli?

E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems.

DO NOT DRINK THE WATER WITHOUT BOILING IT FIRST. Bring all water to a boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.

General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

FAQs

Should I use an alternative source of drinking water or boil my water?

Yes. Until JEA lifts the boil water advisory for the affected customers, bring all drinking water to a boil for at least one minute and let it cool before using it to drink or cook with. You may also use bottled water. General guidelines to lessen the risk of infection by bacteria are also available from EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

What was done to address this situation?

The drinking water treatment plant was taken offline. Additional confirmation sampling was immediately initiated upon discovery of this potential problem. Chlorine was maintained in the water distribution system throughout this period of time to help ensure bacteria would not be present in your drinking water. We anticipate resolving the problem within 3 days.

Does my water currently meet total coliform standards?

While the EPA bacteria standard was not achieved, your water is still a safe potable water source and all other recent water quality tests have been satisfactory.

What are the possible health effects of exposure to E. coli?

E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems.

Why am I receiving this notice?

The EPA requires JEA to issue a public notice any time the bacteria standard is not met.

When does JEA issue this type of notice to customers?

JEA issues a public notice to inform our customers of any potential water quality health concerns as soon as we become aware of a potential problem.

Where can I obtain additional information?

Customers may contact JEA’s Customer Care Center at (904) 665-6000 or wtrqual@jea.com via email for additional information concerning this notice or write to JEA - Water Quality, 1002 Main Street North, Jacksonville, Florida 32206.

Customers may also contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Potable Water Section at 904-256-1700.


About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.