Pasco testing well water around massive sinkhole for contamination

Pasco County officials testing water quality around the sink holes

LAND O' LAKES, Fla. -- On Monday, Pasco County officials started testing the water near that massive sinkhole that opened up on Friday in Land ‘O Lakes.

Neighbors say they are worried that whatever made its way into that hole and down to the water table might be contaminating their water supply. 

With all kinds of chemicals and probably two septic tanks swirling somewhere in that 50-foot deep pool of debris, Pasco officials went door to door checking the local well water for E.coli.

Their test radius spread out beyond the nine houses in the immediate area of the massive sinkhole. 

“In addition to that we're going to test an additional 11 or so homes bringing up the total number sample test to 20,” said Assistant County Administrator Kevin Guthrie.

County officials say there's no indication the well water has been contaminated, but they don't want to take any chances. 

“I wouldn't be concerned about upstream or downstream. I'd be more concerned about how close you are to the proximity of the event,” said Pasco Spokesman Doug Tobin.

In the meantime their advice to those who may be nervous about their drinking water?

“Consume bottled water at this time and we will have an answer by 3 PM tomorrow,” said Pasco Emergency Management Coordinator Ian Eppig.

“I think I'm going to be in trouble,” said Emily Geldbaugh, whose house is right next door to the collapsed homes.

Geldbaugh is concerned about her water, not just because of the proximity. There’s no way they could accurately test her water yet, she said, because her house needs electricity to run the well pump. On Friday, officials shut the power off.

“I'm right beside that house. And, we've talked,” said Geldbaugh. “We’ll probably have to have a well drilled if I can get back in. And of course, how comfortable am I gonna be there? It'll be a big worry,” she said.

The problem with getting the power turned back on to test the water is that officials have to replace at least three power poles affected by the sinkhole. But heavy utility trucks can't get close enough until they’re absolutely sure the ground below them won't collapse.

“You know, we don't know exactly where that safe edge is at,” said Guthrie.

Homeowners are also worried whether their policy will even cover the cost of any well contamination thanks to changes made in the sinkhole insurance law six years ago. 

“Because if there's not a claim on the house for damage, are they going to cover our well-being damage? Because, I don't think they will,” said Gelbaugh’s son, James.

County officials still weren't sure which direction, if any, the water under the sink hole was moving.

So, rather than test for E. coli downstream, they were working in an equidistant circle around the center.

If the tests come back negative, that would be good news. But if they come back positive they say they would then widen that circle and continue testing to see just how far any contamination may have reached.

Officials say they were more concerned about E. coli than fuel or other potential contaminants seeping into the well water.

Most of the other substances, they say, would quickly dissipate, but bacteria can spread or grow.

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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