Rep. Randy Fine to hold town hall meeting on Melbourne water situation

Fine: 'My constituents asked me to fix the problem'

Green algae covered water near the banks of Lake Washington Friday (July 19, 2019). The lake is a main drinking water supply for Melbourne's water utility. (Photo: Jim Waymer/Florida Today)

MELBOURNE, Fla. – Rep. Randy Fine plans to clear the air about Melbourne's drinking water, which some customers say smells strange, lately, like mold.

So on Tuesday, Fine will host a town hall meeting he set up to get some answers, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

"The authorities are saying everything is fine, but individual constituents of mine are saying it's not," Fine said Wednesday.

"For decades, local politicians have polluted our waters. Now the chicken's coming home to roost."

The meeting will be from  4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Melbourne City Council Chambers, 900 E. Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne.

Rep. Randy Fine will hold a meeting at Melbourne City Hall 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 30 to discuss recent issues with the city's drinking water. (Photo: Tim Shortt/Florida Today)

Fine said the meeting will be a chance for residents to get answers from representatives of the city utility. The St. Johns River Water Management District also will discuss the water quality in Lake Washington, the city's main source of drinking water. Fine encouraged residents to bring any water testing they have done on their own to the meeting.  

Lake Washington provides two-thirds of the water supply for the city's 57,000 connections, serving about 170,000 people. The rest comes from wells.

City officials have pointed to warmer-than-usual temperatures that hit earlier in the year, as well as ongoing repairs to the water treatment process that typically handles these sorts of water-supply problems.

Construction projects that disrupt the usual flow through the water pipes and lower water use also have resulted in more variability in chlorine levels throughout the system, city officials say.

Utility staff have been adjusting disinfection and flushing out the system, as needed, city officials said. 

The water issues are complicated by poor conditions in Lake Washington this summer, Florida Today reported. The lake has been posted with signs this week, warning of a potentially toxic algae.

The city hasn't found any algae toxins and ensures the drinking water's safe. Any algae toxins from Lake Washington would be removed from the water before it reaches customers' taps, city officials say.

The lake has been plagued by blue-green algae blooms. Nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers, leaking sewage systems and other sources can fuel excess algae growth, biologists say, especially in warmer summer months.

[RELATED: Melbourne tests drinking water amid fears of toxic algaeFlorida congressman introduces bill to improve state's waterways]

Winter and spring rains and record summer heat helped set the stage for algae blooms in the lake this month. Rains pulse in nitrogen and phosphorus from land. Those two nutrients come from farm and residential fertilizers, leaky sewage systems, and the sewage sludge municipalities spread on land.

Some recent research by the St. Johns River Water Management District points to the land application of biosolids — the sludge left over from the sewage treatment process — as a source of increasing phosphates helping to feed algae blooms in Lake Washington and other east Central Florida lakes.

Beyond its city limits, Melbourne also supplies drinking water to Melbourne Beach, Indialantic, Indian Harbour Beach, Satellite Beach, Palm Shores, Melbourne Village and part of the unincorporated areas south of the Pineda Causeway, according to Florida Today. Melbourne also provides wholesale water service to West Melbourne.

Residents will get a chance at Tuesday's town hall to ask officials about pollution sources that threaten the water supply.

"My constituents asked me to fix the problem," Fine said of why he's getting involved with Melbourne's drinking water issues.