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Palm Coast Water Tower Free of Contaminants After Break-In, Tests Reveal; Questions Remain

| May 27, 2011

Cleared. (© FlaglerLive)

Water in the iconic Palm Coast water tower along I-95, the scene of a break-in and vandalism discovered the morning of May 17, shows no sign of contamination according to results from a series of tests, the city announced today. The 500,000-gallon tank had been isolated from the rest of the city’s water supply since May 17.

Tests were conducted by the Flagler County Health Department and a city-contracted laboratory. “Obviously there’s thousands of possible things to test for, but we tested for all those things that the safe drinking water act requires us to test for and nothing was found abnormal,” Brian Matthews, a city environmental specialist, said on Friday.

The tank won’t return into service immediately, however. It’ll be flushed out down stormwater drains (it would be inefficient and too costly to transport the water to irrigation sites as an alternative) and disinfected before being re-filled and re-tested over the next week or so before it is reconnected to the rest of the system. The tank was scheduled for that maintenance, Matthews said.

Part of the procedure will involve adding what Matthews calls an “active mixing system upgrade” to the water to prevent stratification: when water enters the tank at different temperatures, it can lead to stratification, with older water sitting on top rather than mixing with the rest, which affects water quality.

The utility department is also revisiting its security system throughout the city. Matthews said the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the break-in, has not conveyed new information to the city about the break-in.

The morning of May 17, utility workers–Cyril Parsons and Jim Hogan–performing a routine check of the water tower discovered that the main door to the tower was forced open, and that someone had gone up the ladder at the center of the tower to the top of the tank, where latches to the ladder tube and to the water tank itself were left open. A 16-ounce Natural Ice beer can and a large St. Johns Bay shirt were also found, along with two connected garden hoses, 50 feet each, tied to an outer railing on the tank.

Closer inspection of the garden hose revealed a segment of gray tape on it with what appeared to be blood, according to a sheriff’s office report. That mystery, like the identity of the vandal (s), remains unsolved. Contacted Friday, the sheriff’s office said there was nothing new on the case.

The tank is about 165 feet high. The damage to the tower was put at $1,000.

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