The Long Beach Department of Public Works is seeking approval from the Nassau County Department of Health to restore the chlorine in the city’s drinking water to normal levels, following the release of a water quality assessment on Aug. 8.
In June, a routine water sample was found to have traces of E. coli, which moved health officials to issue a boil-water alert on June 21. It was lifted three days later, after more than 50 subsequent samples tested negative for the bacteria.
While the alert was in place, the county ordered the city to raise chlorine levels from the normal 1 milligram per liter to 2 milligrams per liter in order to flush out any possible E. coli bacteria in the system over the course of two days.
Since the boil-water alert was lifted, the Health Department has remained adamant that the city maintains a higher level of chlorine, and it remains 1.5 milligrams per liter. Officials have consistently stated, however, that the water is safe to consume, and they are seeking to reduce the level to 1 milligram per liter. That, Long Beach Public Works Commissioner John Mirando explained, is the concentration when the water leaves the city’s water plant; it is reduced to 0.4 to 0.6 milligrams per liter by the time it reaches residents.
Last week’s water quality assessment updated a report that was released to the state and county health departments on July 19, which analyzed the water system and other conditions in an effort to find the source of the contamination. Officials have yet to determine where the bacteria came from, but the report confirmed that all protocols were correctly followed in investigating the outbreak and determining that the city’s drinking water is safe.
Mirando has noted that the trace of E. coli was an isolated incident and not a system-wide problem, and that a filtration system in the home on Grand Boulevard where the sample was found may be the source.
“I would hope that after [the county Health Department] speaks with the state, we would be able to return back to normal chlorine levels,” Mirando said. The Health Department said it could not yet say whether it would approve the city’s request because it must first consult with the state Department of Health before making a decision.
Many residents expressed concerns about the increased chlorine levels on social media, and at a public forum on July 24.
City Council President Anissa Moore said she was set to meet with Mirando and other city officials on Thursday to get a better sense of what further actions will be taken. She added that she was aware that many residents still had concerns about the quality of the city’s water. “I’m going to support [Mirando’s] recommendation because he is an expert in that area,” Moore said. “He wants to make sure that we’re making the best decisions for the benefit of our residents.”
The Aug. 8 report came on the same day that the city released a statement warning residents about solicitors impersonating city employees in an attempt to sell water-testing kits.
City officials cautioned residents about people claiming to be affiliated with the town’s water department in order to sell them the kits. “These individuals are not affiliated with or endorsed by the city,” officials said in a statement on the city’s website. “Actual city employees are easily identified by their uniforms and credentials, and will never engage in solicitation.”
At the July 24 forum, Mirando said that the city spends $60,000 a year testing its drinking water. He mentioned people who were offering free water tests, and warned residents that the tests were a “gimmick” to try to sell water filtration systems. Testing a single home for all of the bacteria the city tests for, Mirando said, would cost more than $1,000.
Long Beach Fire Commissioner and Building Commissioner Scott Kemins said that employees of Home Depot have knocked on his door and tried to sell him water-testing kits — and even offered to come into his home and test the water — but he declined.
The city advises all residents to remain vigilant, and to contact the Department of Public Works, at (516) 431-1011, to verify the employment status of any individual.