Bryan Jones

Photo by Grace Singer

Jacksonville University students have always complained about the horrible taste of the water. The St. Johns is not a clean river. However, we don’t get our drinking water from there.

According to a new study, we might as well be. The website used data collected by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) from a five-year study (ending in 2009).

Those tests ranked Jacksonville as having the 10th worst water in the country. This rank of water quality is based on three points. The percentage of chemicals found based on the number that were tested for, the total number of contaminants found and the most dangerous average level of a single pollutant.

According to EWGs report, 23 different toxic chemicals were found in Jacksonville’s water supply. The chemicals most frequently discovered in high volumes were trihalomethanes, which consist of four different cleaning byproducts—one of which is chloroform. Unsafe levels of trihalomethanes were detected during each of the 32 months of testing, and levels deemed illegal by the EPA were detected in 12 of those months. During at least one testing period, trihalomethane levels were measured at nearly twice the EPA legal limit.

Chemicals like arsenic and lead were also detected at levels exceeding health guidelines.

In contrast to the reports, Gerri Boyce, spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Electric Authority, said it runs more than 25,000 tests every year on its drinking water.     “Jacksonville water is very safe,” Boyce said in a Jan. 31 First Coast News article.

Boyce claims that the report is wrong and misleading.

“It’s an unregulated group and the data is not scientific, and it’s not comprehensive,” Boyce said.

Boyce said that the chemicals found are all naturally occurring and if the amount of chemicals hits an elevated level there is an alarm system in place to catch it.

Recently many gallons of water have been released out of a fire hydrant on the Northside and are being flushed out for having too much chlorine. According to JEA, the alarm system caught the problem.

JEA mails out a water report to customers every year detailing what is found by their annual studies.

At least Jacksonville is not at the top of the list. In fact, because several large cities never submitted data for the studies, it may not even be in the top 10. So remember, you may think that the drinking water at JU tastes awful, but someone always has it worse.