Residents in the ECUA service area enjoy an excellent source of potable water supplied from the prolific and high-quality Sand-and-Gravel aquifer. Because this aquifer does not have a confining layer above it, virtually everything that falls on the ground has the potential to affect the quality of our water supply. ECUA is well aware of this threat to the groundwater and works diligently with Escambia County and the City of Pensacola in strengthening their Wellhead Protection Ordinances. We also urge all residents to remember to dispose of motor oils, chemicals, and other hazardous waste in an ecologically responsible manner.
ECUA's drinking water was selected as the "2018 Best Tasting Water" in a taste-test competition held in Destin, Florida, in March 2018. The annual event was sponsored by Region IX of the Florida Section/American Water Works Association (FS/AWWA). This is the fifth time that ECUA has been recognized as having the best-tasting water in the Florida Panhandle since 2005.
Participation in the Best Tasting Drinking Water Contest is open only to water providers within the geographical region who have not experienced any violations in the federal or state safe drinking water regulatory requirements. Each water sample was evaluated for taste, odor, and clarity by a panel of judges.
Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) customers enjoy one of the best supplies of drinking water in the world, so a notice to boil tap water may seem like a needless inconvenience.
Typically, water service can be interrupted for any number of reasons, most commonly while repairs are made to a water main following a break, or in the course of scheduled maintenance and repair work.
During tropical storms or hurricanes when many uprooted trees cause hundreds of broken water and sewer lines, water service may be shut off system-wide. In this case, boil water notices are often issued until broken mains can be repaired and system pressures, and service, are restored.
It may seem that this is an added cost in manpower, time, and materials to the utilities, and certainly an inconvenience to those water users affected. However, we believe that these safeguards are put in place by our regulatory agencies (EPA and FDEP) to protect our customers, and are therefore worth the added time and cost to the ECUA.
Why is the issuance of a boil water notice required? When breaks or changes occur in water lines, if the normal pressure in the line is lost, the possibility exists for contaminants to enter that line. The odds of this happening are extremely remote, but to be extra cautious, precautionary boil water notices are placed in effect while routine bacteriological sampling is conducted. Usually, two separate sets of samples are taken (again to be extra cautious), each needing 24 hours to be considered complete. When both sets of samples come back "clean", the precautionary boil water notice is lifted. These advisories only affect water that is intended for drinking or cooking.
We use a variety of methods to communicate boil water notices to our customers. They include delivering fliers door-to-door, distribute the timely information on radio and television, and updated information and the affected areas will be immediately posted on the ECUA website.
Look for the Boil Water icon located in the blue box on the main page. And be sure to monitor this page for updates during boil-water notices.
Please call us at (850) 476-0480 if you have questions or concerns. The Escambia County Health Department can also assist with answers to your questions. Call the Environmental Health division at (850) 595-6700 for assistance.
What Should You Do?
How to purify water - When a precautionary boil water notice is issued you’ll want to have a safe and adequate drinking water supply in your home until service can be restored. To do this you’ll need to purify the water by using one of several methods:
Boil vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes and let cool.
Use regular liquid bleach from the home laundry or grocery store. DO NOT use a bleach that has a fragrance or scent. Read the label to find the percentage of chlorine available. It should be 5.25%. Add 8 drops to a gallon of water and let stand at least 30 minutes. If the water has a strong chlorine smell after 30 minutes, pour back and forth between two clean jugs or containers until the smell has dissipated.
These can be purchased from a drug store. Keep them with your hurricane supplies and use according to directions on the package.
How To Store Purified Water
To keep drinking water safe from contamination, it should be stored in clean, non-corrosive, tightly covered containers.
Prepare three gallons of water per day for each family member and any family pets.
To increase shelf life of water, group bottles in dark plastic trash bags to keep light out. Store containers in a cool, dark location.
CAUTION: Make sure children don't mistake bottles containing hazardous substances with bottles used for drinking water.
Hurricane Preparation Tips
During and after a hurricane, the water supply to your home may be temporarily interrupted for a short period of time. To ensure your household has a safe and adequate water supply after natural disasters, take these precautions:
Store enough drinking water for each family member and pet. Store in clean, non-corrosive, tightly covered containers. Store containers in a cool, dark location. Collect water in bathtubs for non-drinking uses. Get more information on hurricane preparedness by visiting www.BeReadyEscambia.com.
If you live in an evacuation zone and plan on leaving your home until after the storm has passed, you can further protect the water supply going into your home and minimize property damage by following the guidelines shown below: How To Protect Your Hot Water Heater:
Turn off your water at the cut-off valve. Switch off the electrical circuit breakers to your electric water heater. Contact your natural gas provider for recommendations on steps to take to secure your natural gas water heater.
How To Turn Off Your Water:
Your water can be shut off at either the cut-off valve or at the water meter. Everyone in your home should know where these are located. The valve, which may have a wheel type handle, is normally under the water faucet outside (usually in the front of the house or by the garage door), 18 inches below the ground and 2 feet from the house, in line with your water meter. Some valves are located directly behind your property line near the street. The valve can be operated to provide water, if available, for sanitary services only on or after thorough disinfection following approved Health Department guidelines
We strive to keep you informed about water quality. Each year, the ECUA publishes a Water Quality Report. The latest report available is for the 2019 reporting year. The 2020 Water Quality Report will be published by June 30, 2021.
What are PFOA, PFOS and PFAS?
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are part of a group of chemicals known as PFAS or Per- and Poly- fluoroalkyl Substances. There are many chemical compounds that fall within the PFAS category, but the two best known are PFOA and PFOS, which have been used in Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) for fighting aircraft fires and in manufacturing non-stick products. They have also found their way into many other uses including food packaging, stain resistant fabric, and other products.
What is the concern?
In 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Health Advisory (HA) level for drinking water at 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS combined. As a frame of reference, one part per trillion is comparable to 30 seconds in 1 million years. A Health Advisory is different than a regulatory compliance level (there presently is no regulatory compliance level). The EPA states the HA is set to provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water. All ECUA treated water either has non-detectable levels of PFOA and PFOS or is significantly below the HA for those compounds. ECUA is working diligently to continue to maintain this status.
What is ECUA doing about PFAS?
In order to address PFAS, some of the actions that ECUA has taken, and continues to take, include: installing additional Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filtration, changing the carbon filtration media at some wells, conducting additional testing of all its wells, and taking wells out of service. ECUA will also soon be testing an alternative treatment method to GAC filtration, which we hope will prove to be more cost-effective. Additionally, ECUA is in litigation to recover its damages.
Even though this is not a regulatory requirement, ECUA is doing what we believe is prudent and appropriate to protect the public and provide safe drinking water to the community.
Where can I get more information on PFAS?
Here are some links to other sites that contain information on PFAS:
Our water meets all federal and state standards.
The ECUA’s goal is to provide a reliable water supply that meets or exceeds the standards of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
In addition to meeting federal and state standards, we also strive to keep you informed about water quality and the water issues that affect you. Each year, the ECUA sends all customers a Water Quality Report, which includes a system-wide table of sampling results.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)
The Department's Water Programs are responsible for protecting the quality of Florida’s drinking water as well as its rivers, lakes and wetlands, and for reclaiming lands after they have been mined for phosphate and other minerals. The FDEP’s Water Resource Protection Programs include the Safe Drinking Water program, which assures the public that water systems provide safe and reliable drinking water.
FDEP Safe Drinking Water Program
The Department of Environmental Protection has the primary role of regulating public water systems in Florida. Authority derives from Chapter 403, Part IV, Florida Statutes, and by delegation of the federal program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Department has promulgated a number of rules in the Florida Administrative Code.
A public water system is one that provides water to 25 or more people for at least 60 days each year or serves 15 or more service connections. These public water systems may be publicly or privately owned and operated.
Very small water systems which provide water for public consumption, but which do not fall under the above definition, are regulated by the Department of Health and the county health departments. Bottled water and water vending machines are regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Food Safety. Digging of water wells, both public and private, and the quantities of water that may be extracted, are regulated by the Water Management Districts. ECUA falls under the jurisdiction of the Northwest Florida Water Management District.
To ensure that ECUA water meets or exceeds federal and state drinking water standards, we collect and analyze water samples with more frequency than federal regulations require through the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Our State-certified laboratory performs many of the tests, although some samples are sent to external labs for processing. We are certified by the Florida Department of Health following the NELAC (National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference) standards. As part of our certification requirements, we participate in 5 Proficiency Testing rounds every year, which are graded by an outside agency. Additionally, the laboratory and staff undergo a 2-3 day on-site inspection every 2 years and we are subject to inspection at any time by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The FDEP Water Bureau oversees the state's public drinking water systems. The agency is responsible for making sure that all water purveyors follow the SDWA requirements. The U.S. EPA, in turn, monitors the state's drinking water program to ensure that the state is fulfilling its responsibilities.
The water supply is analyzed for:
Results of testing are available in the Water Quality Report and water analysis on that Web page.
Our source water is from the Sand-and-Gravel Aquifer, and ECUA has 28 wells distributed throughout its service area that pump water from the Sand-and-Gravel Aquifer. In general, ECUA customers receive water from the wells (two to five) located closest to their residence. Each well is considered a separate treatment plant, where water quality parameters are adjusted to comply with operating standards. Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filters are installed on eleven (11) wells for iron or organic contamination removal. Calcium Hydroxide (lime) is added for pH adjustment; Phosphoric Acid is added for corrosion control in the distribution system and Chlorine is added for disinfection. Fluoride is added at select wells, as a source of fluoride treatment.
Each year, our water quality staff:
We also conduct extensive quality control sampling of our distribution system. Although this type of sampling is not required by regulation, it's important for identifying the system's potential areas of weakness so that they may be addressed.
Water Sampling Stations
ECUA water quality staff manages hundreds of sampling stations at fire hydrants, throughout the distribution routes and also at each well site, from which we draw water samples for required testing. This helps us to ensure that water quality is maintained, from the well all the way to the tap. New pipes, water mains and service lines are also tested for the potential presence of bacteriological contaminants before they are accepted as part of the distribution system. NOTE: Our employees do not ask to enter your home to collect a water sample from your tap.
ECUA has 28 wells distributed throughout its service area that pump water from the Sand-and-Gravel Aquifer. In general, ECUA customers receive water from the wells (two to five) located closest to their residence. Each well is considered a separate treatment plant, where water quality parameters are closely monitored and adjusted to comply with operating standards. Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filters are installed on eleven (11) wells for iron or organic contamination removal. Calcium Hydroxide (lime) is added for pH adjustment; Phosphoric Acid is added for corrosion control in the distribution system and Chlorine is added for disinfection. Fluoride is added at select wells, as a source of fluoride treatment.
The recharge area for ECUA wells is limited to the area of Escambia County, south of Cantonment. Because the Sand-and-Gravel Aquifer does not have a confining layer above it, virtually everything that falls on the ground has the potential to reach the main producing zone of the aquifer and affect the quality of our water supply. You can help prevent groundwater contamination by observing a few key guidelines:
Wellhead protection programs help protect public groundwater supplies from contamination and prevent the need for costly water treatment. ECUA is well aware of this threat to the groundwater and over the years has worked with Escambia County and the City of Pensacola in strengthening their Wellhead Protection Ordinances.
The national Wellhead Protection Program was established by the 1986 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The SDWA Amendments require each state to develop a Comprehensive State Groundwater Protection Program and encourage local water systems to develop wellhead protection plans for their community water systems.
If you own a well, protecting the area around your wellhead is important to protecting your water supply.
You can help protect your well: Safely seal, store or dispose of animal waste, fuels, pesticides, fertilizers, paints, and other harmful products in accordance with local waste disposal ordinances. These elements should never be located near a wellhead.
Do you see pink stains on the inside of your sinks, toilets, bathtub or shower? This is not a problem with water quality. Instead, it’s likely the result of airborne bacteria that thrive on moist surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens, especially in our humid climate. The pink film is usually found as a ring that accumulates at the water line in the toilet bowl or on shower doors, sink drains, bathtubs, and even your pet's water bowl.
So What Is It?
The bacteria that cause these pink stains is called Serratia Marcescens, which is found naturally in the environment. Serratia Marcescens is an extremely common type of bacteria, found in everything from soil, to food, to animals. Known for its pinkish-red pigment, Serratia needs almost nothing to survive. Once settled in a damp spot, such as your bathroom, Serratia has everything necessary to flourish – standing water, open air, and the consistent introduction of phosphates and fats from daily bathroom use.
What Can I Do About It?
There are several ways to combat the pink stuff, and it's always best to stay ahead of the curve on this one. Any general bathroom cleaning solution will work if used on a regular basis, and a bleach-based cleaner is recommended for persistent stains that have had the opportunity to settle in.
If you prefer to not use a bleach-based product, a solution of one-part vinegar and one-part water may be used. Spray this mixture over the afflicted area and then scrub away with a soft bristle brush. It's also helpful to routinely flush toilets that are not used very often to help reduce the bacteria growth.
Also, remember that since moisture is the main culprit, get in the habit of drying your sinks and showers after every use with a rag or squeegee. This will prevent water from pooling and "feeding" the Serratia.