At the most recent Tallahassee City Commission meeting, Ronald Saff once again took to the podium during the final “un-agenda speakers” portion to reiterate a number of the facts he presented last month (which The Florida Independent covered earlier). He also encouraged the mayor to spearhead an investigation into the city’s polluted water supply:
Mayor I commend you for the last time I was here speaking to this group that you said you’d look into this issue. Unfortunately to date I haven’t received any emails or phone calls, but I do realized that it’s hard to look into because a lot of people who know about the contaminated water work for the Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Geological Service and they don’t want to speak up because they’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs. Perhaps I’m the only one in Leon County that has read the drinking water quality report and this New York Times article, but the conclusions are obvious and even the feds agree that our tap water poses a health risk.
Saff then quoted some of the New York Times coverage on unsafe tap water throughout the country:
“For years, people said that America has the cleanest drinking water in the world,” said William K. Reilly, the EPA administrator under President George H. W. Bush. ”That was true 20 years ago. But people don’t realize how many new chemicals have emerged and how much more pollution has occurred. If they did, we would see very different attitudes.”
Recent studies have found that even some chemicals regulated by that law pose risks at much smaller concentrations than previously known. However, many of the [EPA Safe Drinking Water] Act’s standards for those chemicals have not been updated since the 1980s, and some remain essentially unchanged since the law was passed in 1974.
Government scientists now generally agree, however, that many chemicals commonly found in drinking water pose serious risks at low concentrations.
After being informed his three minutes were up, Saff quickly closed with the following:
I would like, Mayor, for you to launch an investigation and ask these three questions:
1. Why is our tap water more polluted than the national average?
2. Given its limited budget, is the city water utility doing enough to get the pollutants out of the water?
3. Since the president’s Cancer Panel report has not received much media attention, why isn’t the city echoing their report and advising residents to filter their tap water?
In response to Saff’s presentation, Commissioner Mark Mustian offered some thoughts:
I want to talk about Dr. Saff’s thing for just a second. I’d like to get the staff to respond to the statements that there’s an issue here, and just offer a couple of thoughts for whatever they’re worth.
One is that any time a citizen presents us with something like this, I think we have an obligation to look at it, even though it may not be true, may be hyperbole or whatever. And I hear what he’s saying and don’t necessarily disagree with it, that a blind reliance on what the federal government regulations are where there’s a whole lot of other instances where we aren’t willing to do that and want to look a little further. And so I’m OK to do that.
But balancing that against the fact that we’re not scientists, I have no way of knowing this one way or the other, and I recognize at some level that there’s a whole bunch of carcinogens that if you take too much of them … you know if I drink one Diet Coke a day it’s probably not going to kill me, if I drink 89 there’s probably something in there that will do it, so trying to balance being reasonable and prudent versus what’s realistic in the real world.
I would be curious to know, Dr. Saff, if there are other municipalities and public water systems that are regulating things that you think we should regulate that we’re not. And if there’s information on that if you want to get it to us I’d be interested to look at that. So if we could get back on that I think it’d be prudent.
Mayor John Marks, whose office did not return messages left seeking comment on this issue for a previous article, broke his silence after Commissioner Mustian’s words: “I think we all will agree with that, without question.”