While Rick Scott Was Governor, State Health Officials Concealed Toxic Chemicals in Ocala Drinking Water for Four Months

From By Samantha J. Gross and Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times, 01/03/2019:

In August [2018], the Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that flame retardants containing perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) had been used at the Fire College in the past. In early September, the college was told to only drink bottled water.

Lawson’s home was one of three well sites — a Marion County fire station and Texas-based mining company Lhoist North America were the others — where preliminary tests indicated the water had elevated levels of the chemicals, which early studies have suggested can be carcinogens. Other impacts in humans include high cholesterol, thyroid disorders, adverse reproductive and developmental effects and some types of cancer.

It took about four months for state health officials to notify Lawson and others in the community about potentially elevated levels of the chemicals, emails obtained by the Times/Herald show. In September state health officials began discussing means of informing the Fire College, but it wasn’t until late October that they discussed notifying the rest of the nearby community. While state health officials debated for months how to word messages to those affected and put off informational open houses because of Hurricane Michael, neighbors bickered with local health officials asking when their water would be tested. Some preemptively began buying cases of water each week, fearing their own wells might be contaminated.

The department notified residents on Nov. 5 — two months after the Fire College started using bottled water and three days after tests results showed contamination in their wells.

… Les Beitsch, a former deputy secretary in the Florida Department of Health, speculates that health officials delayed notifying Lawson and the two other well users because of the impending election. He was effectively fired in November, he said, because he pushed back against the idea of any delay in notifying well-water users of the problem.

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