City is to blame for water confusion

Published 8:34 am Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Brookhaven remained under a boil-water notice Monday and into today. On Monday, residents were still confused about whether they should boil their water, and the city is largely to blame for that.

After the state Department of Health issued a boil-water notice for all 12,500 water customers in Brookhaven Thursday, city officials told people — verbally, on Facebook and through the newspaper — that only about 30 blocks were affected.

So people outside of those 30 blocks assumed their water was safe to drink.

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Matt Fitzsimmons at Betty’s Eat Shop said they heard about the advisory from the state Thursday, but then heard it was for another area of town so they went about business as usual. Then they realized the state’s advisory covered the entire city.

“We were confident in what they (city officials) had told us. Then we find out that we are affected,” he said. “It was confusing. We were under the impression that we didn’t have to boil water.”

That means the restaurant likely served water to customers that should have been boiled. They likely weren’t the only ones either.

People likely were drinking water at their homes without boiling it because of the information the city provided.

That’s dangerous.

“If we do a state imposed boil-water alert, you should do what we say,” Liz Sharlot, director of communications for the state Department of Health, said.

That seems obvious enough but that’s not what happened.

“It was an issue that shouldn’t have happened,” Kris Xifos, the superintendent for the Brookhaven Water Department, said.

He’s right. When it comes to drinking water, people expect and deserve clear and accurate information from the city. Hopefully, the confusion surrounding this boil-water alert will be a one-time problem. It certainly was a preventable one.