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“My Dog Wouldn’t Drink the Water”: Bunnell Residents May Not See Change for 21 Months

| April 2, 2012

bunnell water stystem pollution

Drink at your own risk. (© FlaglerLive)

The horror stories about Bunnell’s drinking water are nothing new. Nor are the boil-water advisories. Nor are the chronic violations of federal limits on carcinogenic pollutants in the water. Nor are the city’s promises, going back to 2004, to do something about it. What gets under Bill Baxley’s skin, besides the bad water, is why it’s taken Bunnell so long to tackle the problem, and why the city is doing little to nothing by way of alternatives until the promised long-term solution  of a new water system is in place one to two years from now.

Baxley, a long-time resident of the city and  a once and future candidate for the city commission, did not get satisfactory answers when he brought up the matter for an hour’s discussion before the commission last week.

“Some of you on this board have been here since 2004,” Baxley told commissioners, criticizing the inaction since then. “My point that I’m trying to make is that all of you were appointed to protect the citizens of Bunnell. It’s your job. And I feel like that’s what each and every one of you should have been doing in past years, just looking at this, because if we’ve been drinking water this long—and if I, not knowing anything about this, could go up on a web site and get all the information that I got in a matter of about an hour, I feel like y’all’s responsibility should have been that you did that in 2004.”

Baxley had some sympathy on the commission, but not much.

john rogers bunnell city commission

John Rogers (© FlaglerLive)

“I remember back in 2003, we were in a city commission meeting at the old city hall, and I believe it was Mr. Bonner, he had some water and he was talking about how wonderful the water was in Bunnell,” commission member John Rogers said, referring to ex-City Manager Lyndon Bonner, “that we won an award because of the water in Bunnell. The truth of the matter is, the water is terrible. My wife will not—she gets mad at me when I give the dogs water. Look at your dishes in your dishwasher. It’s absolutely terrible. I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe we should buy the water from Palm Coast. I don’t know. It’s just something to think about. I know you all are here because you guys are tired of the water.”

“No offense to your dog, but my dog wouldn’t drink the water,” Anna Conti, a Bunnell resident of Pine Forest, told Rogers and the rest of the commission. “I’ve had to get bottled water for my dog for two years.”

Another resident, one of seven who addressed the commission that evening (other than Baxley), showed the commission her soiled dishes despite repeated washings, by hand or by dishwasher. “I thought I’d bring this along just to show you what I’m going through with dishes, glasses, cups, saucers, whether you do it by hand or not,” Edie Rogers said. “It’s scaring the living daylights out of me. I don’t know what else to do.”

Vice Mayor Jenny Crain-Brady’s suggestion to Rogers: ““I buy vinegar by the gallon. I put it in my dishwasher, I put it in my laundry detergent, and I wash my dishes with it. It will make your glasses as sparkly and new as the day you bought them.”

But that did not address the heart of the matter Baxley was bringing before the commission.

bunnell city commission bill baxley

Bill Baxley (© FlaglerLive)

Baxley submitted seven questions to the commission about the water problem, among them the matter of so-called trihalomethane, or THM, by-product in Bunnell’s water. THM is a quartet of chemicals produced as a by-product of chlorine, itself used in the water to kill dangerous bacteria and waterborne diseases. But the Environmental Protection Agency sets a safe limit of 80 parts per billion for THM. Bunnell’s water has been exceeding that limit regularly, and has been cited for 19 violations since 2004.

In May 2011, a test revealed 274 parts per billion, according to Bill Green, manager of Bunnell’s water treatment plant. In August it was 238. But, Green said, the city has been working to lower THM levels, successfully, bringing the numbers down to 46 last September, 87 in November, 82 in January, and 60 in February.

“Our goal is to construct a water plant that will move the organic matter from the well water before the injection of chlorine chloramines disinfection, therefore reducing the formation of disinfection byproduct from the water supply,” Greens aid.

But the city has yet to secure the money for that water plan, even though it’s half-way through the process of building it. Baxley was originally told it would take a year to 18 months to have the plant operational. That timeline was pushed to a year to 21 months last Monday.

bunnell mayor catherine robinson

Catherine Robinson (© FlaglerLive)

“We did some things back in 2004 to try to fix the problem,” Catherine Robinson, Bunnell’s mayor, said in defense of the city, and by way of explaining the delays.  “We’ve also had changes of department heads in that department and it’s taken that comes in and knows the expertise, plus the finances to work through a plan, to be able to get the money to do this project. This is a huge endeavor. It isn’t that we haven’t wanted to do it, but we haven’t had the money to do that and we haven’t had the expertise to do that. And now we have a plan in place. We’re going after grant money and we’re going after a goal, and I’m hoping for a year before this thing is up and running.”

“What do you, mayor, suggest the people of Bunnell do in this year’s time?” Baxley said most Bunnell residents cannot afford to buy water, at about $90 a month, and pay their water bill of about $130 a month on top of that.

“Well, the numbers are down, the numbers are down significantly from where they were,” Robinson said of the pollutants in the water. Her best suggestion was to wait until the new water plant was functioning.

“If you don’t want to drink the water, and this will be harsh, but go down to Harris’s grocery and do like I do and buy the water,” Commissioner Elbert Tucker suggested, without addressing the issue of those who cannot afford what he can. “I buy in 5-gallon jugs, five at a time and take them home with me. There’s not anything else that’s going to be done other than us treating the water to kill the bacteria with chlorine.”


Baxley was also concerned about a letter the city sent Bunnell residents in February. “You stated in your letter to residents of Bunnell dated Feb. 27, 2012, some people who drink water containing THM in excess of [the maximum limit] over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidney and central nervous system,” Baxley said, “and may have an increased risk of getting cancer. Do you feel that drinking water with THMs over a period of seven to eight years qualifies for the above statements?”

“I’d ask you to please understand that this is a standard form put out by DEP,” Green said, referring to the state Department of Environmental Protection. “DEP reviewed it and they edit it for content. There is documentation that suggests that you’d have to drink 6 to 8 liters of water every day for a period of 70 years, at excessive levels, to increase your chances of getting cancer by 1 percent. I believe that this is what the letter doesn’t narrow the timeline down.” Green added: “However I am not a chemist nor a doctor and would only be speculating to any answer to this question with any certainty.”

The matter was put more starkly a short time later when Shirley Turner, a resident of Bunnell for 27 years, addressed the commission: “He said it probably takes 60 or 70 years maybe to affect you, but I’ve lived here this long and this year I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and it happened the day after I got the first letter,” Turner said.

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21 Responses for ““My Dog Wouldn’t Drink the Water”: Bunnell Residents May Not See Change for 21 Months”

  1. justaperson says:

    The problem is the city needs to replace the entire infrastructure along with the water plant and they don’t have the money to do that. Until the are able to do that, Bunnell residents will be stuck the the stuff being filtered through their pipes that they call water.

  2. Lori says:

    Sounds like it might be time to call in someone like Erin Brockovitch and come up with a class action suit against the City. They can either get the problem fixed ASAP or they can pay medical bills and purchase bottled water for all of their residents. Clearly, since the issues have been going on since 2004 with an attempt then to fix the issues and nothing since, this City does not care that there are issues. While test results may say it would take 60 years, those tests do not take in to account the elderly or the children that are also drinking this water. Shame on the City of Bunnell for putting their residents through this and only offering vinegar and the residents purchasing bottled water as solutions.

  3. resident says:

    And they charge us an arm and a leg for this water. We don’t do laundry and have a family of 3 and our water bill runs atleast $100.00 No dishwasher and no washing cars or giveing grass any water. we should not have to pay full price for water we can not use. We buy bottled water for drinking and it is getting expensive to buy bottled water to drink and pay the City of Bunnell for Water we can not use. Solution to no $$ to fix ummm lets see why don’t the politicians of Flagler County take a pay cut instead of increases. Then the City and the County could make the necessary changes they need to make no need for 100,000 plus a year.

  4. Michelle says:

    So now the City has a grant writer with an assistant, a part-time grant writer and another one coming on board….
    Have we truthfully gotten any grants to justify all these positions?
    Because with all this help, we should have grant money out the wazoo!

  5. red says:

    When I first read the letter that was sent in my bill I was shocked but then I researched exactly what it had to say. From what I gather, the entire state of Florida has this problem because the water is pumped from the ground and it contains a lot of contaminants and bacteria that has to be treated. Bunnell treats the water with chlorine (which every other system in the state uses as well) and this creates a byproduct which could cause cancer if ingested enough, but so does a lot of the food we eat. The state just regulates what is “acceptable levels” and Bunnell is slightly higher than the acceptable threshold. And don’t be fooled, water systems across the state have this byproduct in their water but might not have to report it because their levels fall under the acceptable threshold. I went to the open house at the water plant and they have a good plan in place and the water was amazing! Just wish it would happen sooner but the red tape gets in the way.

    I have lived in both PC and Bunnell and both places have terrible water but I use a Brita filter and drink the water in Bunnell, no problem. I will have a better chance of developing cancer from levels of sodium nitrates FDA allows in my food or the acceptable levels of pesticide allowed on my food. By the way, bottled water is only regulated by FDA! Makes you wonder what acceptable levels of contaminants FDA allows in that water.

  6. Bunnellion says:

    The problem has been known about for 12 years and the response from the Mayor is that there was a change in department heads and it takes time to develop a plan along with the finances. I am sorry but it has been 12 years – - -12 years!. You would expect that sort of excuse after a 6 month delay! The reality is that nothing is getting done. You got to love the solutions too! Add vinegar to your water or just go buy bottled water.

    I am not sure why the surprise. This is what happens when you hire a cop from Miami as your City Manager, a check printing guy from New Jersey for your Community Development Director, a plant operator with little professional experience as your Utility Director, and a police secretary as your Human Resources Director.

    Oh yeah, keep waiting residents, the future is bright…

    p.s. by the way, make sure you send in your tax check.

  7. New to PC says:

    I’m fairly new to the area and I’m reading this wondering, what’s the deal with the city of Bunnell? Every time I look at the news I see some story about how Bunnell is doing something wrong. It seems to me like this cities entire infrastructure needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

  8. Bill Baxley says:

    UP-DATE———- Mr. Green stated at the meeting that you would have to drink 6 to 8 liters of water per day for 70 years, I called the EPA hot line, they told me that was false, the standard has been for the last 10 years l.l liters per day, that’s a little over one quart per day. I ask him, if a person drank one gallon of water a day would that change the time limit of 70 years? He said it definitely would, how much he did not know. I also ask him what level of TTHMs standards they used to determine the l.l liters per day for seventy years. he said 80, I then ask if the level was double or higher would that change any thing? he said yes it would shorten the years and increase the risk, how much he did not know.

    Response to Red Yes you are right, almost all of Florida has this problem, but all of the other cities have solved it in a short time. When I told the EPA person I was talking with that we have had 19 violations since 2004, and a high reading of TTHMs every since they first tested for it, he stated to me that the City was dragging their feet. When I told him our population and what we were doing to solve the problem he laughed and said the city must have a lot of money that system cost millions. I said no but they are spending five million plus. He said what the EPA recommended for a city of this size was to use cloroamines it would be pennies compared to what they are installing. I told him that Mr. Green our plant manager told me he has been using cloroamines. The EPA person said it they are used right they will lower the TTHMs to a safe level in most cases.

  9. Rick says:

    Bill, that’s good research but don’t you know you are opening up a can of worms? The City could really use a man like you on the board.

  10. inside information says:

    Way to go bill.I hope you run again for city commission. I will surely get you as many votes as i can. The people of bunnell need someone like yourself to stand up for them. Oh by the way did our fine city commissioners tell you that they had a operator at the water plant that had hepatitis C. We all know the health risks here. Thats just what we need around our water it is poison enough now. Also the reuse water leaving the sewer plant that has been treated is better water than what we are paying good money to drink. Over the years the residents in the area of the elementery school have a high rate of cancer. You can talk to people in this area and they will confirm this. Even money its the water since they are a stones throw from the water plant. Thanks again Bill keep up the great work the people are behind you.

  11. tim says:

    I pay $34.00 for bottled water and then pay Bunnell water bill around $100.00 , they should take $34.00 off my bill for the water I have to buy , THAT WOULD BE FAIR ! , and the cost to replace all the faucets and hot water heater that it ruins .

  12. PJ says:

    Pretty sad that a past commissioner like Baxley has alot to say now.

    It was ok in the past that there were no rate increases to maintain the city infrastructure, what about that Mr. Baxley or maybe we should not discuss this now during your panic time discussions and tactics.

    The whole reason that the city is in trouble was the lack of concern and passivity of the boards pre-2004. They allowed the directors to run a muck and spend at will. However not for the greater good of the residents.

    This board at least has a very good Director of Utilities Mr. Green fixing every problem that comes his way. In a limited budget too.

    As far as Commissioner Rogers statement “My Dog Wouldn’t Drink the Water” is clearly taken out of context. commissioner Rogers was making the point that something needs to be done and Bunnell is really doing this now. Mr. Rogers can’t be at fault for his comments all the time. He means well here.

    Bill you have a wealth of information but you are not a doctor, nor a licensed Utility operator like Mr. green. Your statements are very misleading.

    If you run for office you are a hazard to yourself as well as the residents. Use some common sense, speak to the director in charge with the help of the city mananger to get your facts insread of poising the resident with your kind of coolaid, and not the city water.

    At the last meeting when you voiced your concerns you were told that the proper repairs are being started. Yes this is with the high water & sewer rates that the city charges to pay for this stuff. realing that you were at many of the meeting but never said much about it then. It make me suspect with you intentionsand the way you pointed a finger at some of the board members.

    One last thing the Grants department, say what?

    If Mr. Martinez did not start the grants department your water plant would have been closed 2 years ago and your rates would have been even higher. The infrastructure of the water pipes would not have seen the repairs that have been made sine Director Green has been in charge.

    Millions of dollars are slated to pour in over the next 22 months to clean up this issue. All by the grants department including repairs to lift stations and drinking wells.

    So Mr. Baxley I ask you this? I learned about these things by attending the meetings and only by attending the meetings.

    So what meetings were you at?

  13. Bill Baxley says:

    PJ—- I am sorry if I offended you, but you have made a lot of comments that are not true. I have never been a commissioner. I started going to the commissioner meetings about 2 1/2 years ago after I retired.. And if you were there you know I have spoke out on many things in the past.
    Every thing I said at the commissioner meeting and here I can back it up with FACTS unlike some people.
    Sir you need to get your FACTS straight before you attack anyone.
    You and I are not that far apart on our thoughts. Yes Mr. Green is doing a good job cleaning up the utility department, and yes you make the point I was trying to get across to the commissioner, this problem has gone on two long, it should have been addressed years ago. My point is, instead of taking the employee’s word for the gospel truth, they should do some research on their own. That’s what I did.
    I did speak to the director in charge before I addressed my concerns before the commission, then I checked on every thing he told me to make sure he was correct. All the things I addressed where he miss spoke I have the EPA web site and other web sites to back up all my statement.
    As for your statement that million’s of dollars will pour in in the next 22 months from grants, I have been informed by one of our commissioner that they are only getting l million in grant money, and that has not been approved yet. That’s a commissioner statement not mine. If that is true, where is the other 4 or 5 million coming from?
    If you are so concerned about what I am saying at the meeting why don’t you approach me and we can have a civil discussion in person about your concerns. I know you won’t do that. because you want to hide behind a phony name and spout your slander about me or any one else you disagree with.
    PJ be a man and face up.

  14. inside information says:

    Its funny i dont ever recall bill baxley being a commissioner.

  15. PJ says:

    Mr. Baxley,

    That’s correct Mr. Baxley you were never a commissioner however you did run for the position and the point is you seem to be the un-official commissioner. You question the commission like you were making a plan for everyone.

    as far as my phony name I like it that way.

    I’m not picking on you but I am telling you that you should consider your actions as something like this takes away from the some of the better things that Bunnell is trying to do.

    Hey Bill continue to stand up to the board it is good for all of us to speak our mind but just consider your actions as to it’s real effect…………………………Oh by the way we have had discussions you and i before.

  16. Bill Baxley says:

    PJ== I know we have had discussions before, I knew who you were months ago. I just wanted to see if you would reveal your name up her.
    Don’t worry I will continue to speak up every time there is a subject that concerns the well being of my family and the citizens of Bunnell.

  17. carol says:

    Bunnell should have the best water in the state for the amount they charge for their nasty water. I have an elderly single friend that lives in Bunnell on a very limited income, she pays $90.00 a month, trys to conserve as much as she can, limits her water use as much as she can by not watering her yard, washes her clothes once a month etc; She has complained to the water department and they just tell her that everybody pays the same.

  18. just me says:

    My dog of 7 years does not drink this nasty water either every time he does manage to get some in him he ends up sick.We buy gallons of water at Wal-Mart every week we do not even cook with it,if we had the choice we would not shower in it or brush our teeth in it.It is costing a small fortune in water a month with the water bill then add the expense of buying gallons each week.IT’S RIDICULOUS!!!!

  19. Bullgator2410 says:

    Reverse osmosis water, drink it or u r not educating yourself. Tap water is for the lawn.

  20. goodwater says:

    Bunnell actually had good water in 2007. The treatment plant was repaired within the existing budget and the water quality and pressure was brought up to industry norms. All anyone has to do is pull the Florida DEP reports to see the amazing turn around. City Manager Richard Diamond hired a new Utility Director in the Fall of 2006 who came in, fired the private company who was running the system, and then hired a competent staff to revamp the utility. Unfortunately, in the Spring of 2008, Syd Crosby, during his 3 months taking the city backwards as City Manager, made accusations against the Utility Director, that were later proven to be false, and fired him (check the commission minutes from May 2008). The Director by that time had turned the department into a professional organization. I have heard that the current utility director has actually pulled certain equipment out of the process, which added in the quality of the water. By the way, any changes to the system without the approval of the FL DEP is illegal. I heard that Bill Green removed the slaker, which was used to mix lime into the water to soften it. Maybe the citizens of Bunnell should call the DEP to audit the plant. You may be surprised.

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