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Better notification process needed

Brookhaven residents, restaurants and city officials were likely singing “Hallelujah” when the news came Wednesday that the week-long boil-water notice had been lifted by the state.

About 12,500 customers were placed under the state’s notice Jan. 12 after the presence of E. coli and total coliform bacteria was found in routine samples.

There was plenty of confusion regarding which customers were affected, but the bigger issue was that some residents simply didn’t know about the notice, according to Alderwoman Mary Wilson.

Wilson said there wasn’t enough notification provided to water customers. Other city officials disagreed. 

The issue of notification is a difficult one with boil-water notices. While the state Department of Health places the notice on its website and publicizes it through local media, it’s up to the local water system to ensure customers are aware of any water quality issues. 

If it’s a small area that’s affected, word of mouth and posters, along with door-to-door notifications, are enough. But that’s not feasible when the entire city is affected.

Some people don’t read the newspaper, listen to the radio or watch TV. Notifying those individuals is certainly a challenge, but it must be done.

Mailing out notices to all customers is probably too expensive — postage alone would be $2,000. But it’s imperative that all customers are made aware of these kinds of problems. Clean drinking water is a basic necessity for life. We encourage local water systems and the state Department of Health to work on providing better notification.