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Public Water Systems such as JEA's are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). JEA takes stewardship of the community's water supply very seriously and follows all regulatory requirements of the FDEP and EPA. JEA makes substantial investments to safely manage the water supply resource and to operate the system to meet water quality standards per all regulatory requirements.
- Residents of northeast Florida are very fortunate to have potable water supplied from such a pristine and stable water source as the Floridan Aquifer.
- JEA constantly monitors and optimizes system operations to ensure the safest, most reliable methods of delivering potable water.
- JEA performs more than 45,000 tests on potable water samples each year to assure its quality.
- The Water Quality Report, published annually by July 1, provides a comprehensive summary of these water quality tests in the most recent sampling periods.
- The data in the Water Quality Report demonstrate that JEA's water supply and delivery grids provide an excellent source of high-quality water.
Keep reading to learn about:
EPA Lead and Copper Rule
The EPA Lead and Copper Rule is part of the Safe Drinking Water Act and specifies requirements related to lead and copper in potable water. JEA meets all requirements of this Rule.
The Lead and Copper Rule requires a water utility to monitor potable water at the customer's tap because many homes still have copper pipes with soldered lead joints and the water can pick up traces of these metals. The regulatory sampling protocol which JEA performs centers on drawing test samples both at JEA plants and at the interior taps of several hundred customers across the JEA water service area every three years.
The results of lead and copper sampling in JEA's service territory demonstrate full compliance with the rule.
An Action Level is a specific concentration of a contaminant, which if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements that a water system must follow. For instance, if 10% or more of the samples taken at customer taps exceed 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead, then the Action Level is triggered. In the event this occurs the following steps must be taken:
- The utility must rule out the source water as the source of significant lead levels;
- The utility must assure that they are optimizing treatment to control corrosion in customers' plumbing;
- The utility must determine if there is something at the customer's location that is the cause of the elevated reading.
JEA's water quality meets all requirements of the lead and copper rule.
Want to know more about the Lead and Copper Rule?
- Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems
- Lead and Copper: EPA's Quick Reference Guide.
Fluoride in Your Drinking Water
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element found in low levels in the Floridan aquifer. The maximum level of fluoride deemed acceptable by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is 4 mg/L. The Department of Health and Human Services recently revised its recommended level of fluoride content in drinking water from a range of 0.7 mg/L - 1.2 mg/L to just 0.7 mg/L. The range of fluoride in the JEA water supply was recently tested to be between 0.385 mg/L and 1.22 mg/L, depending on the location of the water treatment plant. JEA does not and has never added fluoride to our drinking water.
The American Medical Association and the American Dental Association agree that fluoride, when administered at low levels of concentration, has been proven to help prevent tooth decay. For more information on what's in our drinking water, refer to the most recent Water Quality Report.
Water is described as "hard" when it contains high levels of dissolved minerals - primarily calcium and magnesium. These naturally occurring soluble compounds are present in the Floridan aquifer. Hard water is not a health risk. Calcium and magnesium are both important to human health and are commonly taken as supplements or as antacids.
Hard water leaves spots on dishes and windows, and a buildup of scale on plumbing fixtures and coffee pots. These can easily be dissolved with white distilled (common household) vinegar:
- Use vinegar in your dishwasher as a rinse-agent.
- Run it through a brewing cycle in your coffee pot then rinse thoroughly.
- Soak faucets overnight in vinegar to remove corrosion.
The following classifications are used to measure hardness in water:
- Soft: 0 - 17.1 parts per million (ppm)
- Slightly hard: 17.1 – 60 ppm
- Moderately hard: 60 - 120 ppm
- Hard: 120 - 180 ppm
- Very hard: 180+ ppm
The hardness of your water varies depending on which water plant serves the area. It is usually highest in the vicinity of St. Johns Forest and lowest in the Cecil Commerce area. The values listed in the table below are the average of the hardness from each of the wells servicing the plant, and were sampled between October and December of last year.
The table below shows the hardness of the water at each of JEA's Water Treatment Plants.
View a map of JEA's Water Treatment Plants
|Water Treatment Plant||ppm||gpg|
|Cecil Commerce Center||116||7|
|Julington Creek Plantation||368||21|
|Ponce de Leon||418||24|
|Ponte Vedra North||381||22|
|St. Johns Forest||468||27|
|St. Johns North||237||14|
You can treat hard water by adding a water softener for laundry and dishwashing, or by installing an ion-exchange system to treat all of your household water. Use of a softener or filter is a personal option and primarily involves aesthetics, not health concerns. Ion exchanges can increase the sodium content of the water, which may pose health concerns for your household.
Contact your local health department for a list of state-certified laboratories that can test the hardness level of your water. Less expensive home tests may also be available from local hardware or home supply stores. It is important to note that softening your water does make it slightly more aggressive, meaning it leaches more metals from your pipes. If you have copper pipes with soldered lead joints, more of these metals will end up in your drinking water. Softening your water will not change the cost of your water service.
Since your water comes from the pristine Floridan Aquifer, most of the elements found in it occur naturally. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires JEA to add chlorine to our water supply to maintain the integrity of our water as it travels through the distribution systems. We chlorinate our drinking water to kill or inactivate harmful organisms which can cause disease. Public health historians call the chlorination of drinking water the most significant health advance of the 20th century.
The chlorination process produces disinfection byproducts (DBPs), including the groups of chemicals known as Trihalomethanes (THMs) and Haloacetic Acids (HAAs). These DBPs form when the chlorine reacts with natural organic matter in the groundwater.
To ensure public health and safety, federal and state regulations require that water utilities routinely monitor for the presence of a number of compounds in their drinking water, including DBPs. The EPA has set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 80 parts per billion (ppb) for THMs and 60 ppb for HAAs. The EPA estimates drinking 2 liters of water containing 100 ppb THMs every day for 70 years could result in 3 extra cases of cancer for every 10,000 people. There is no immediate risk from water with DBPs above the MCL, as the slight risk of increased cancer occurs only after decades of drinking water with consistently elevated DBPs.
The level of DBPs in a water distribution system can vary from day to day depending on:
- The amount of organic matter in the water
- The amount of chlorine needed to maintain the mandated minimum chlorine residual of 0.2 mg/L
- The length of time it takes for water to travel to a customer
- other factors
JEA is working diligently to reduce DBP formation. We constantly monitor our distribution system, making operational changes as needed to reduce the amount of time it takes for water to travel to a customer from the water plant, and reducing the chlorine dosage where possible. Flushing fire hydrants is one way for JEA to reduce buildup in the pipes and maintain fresh, high quality drinking water. Results from JEA's DBP monitoring program are listed in the Annual Water Quality Report.
Rotten Egg (Sulfur) Smell
Bacterial presence in a water supply does not always mean there is a health hazard. Some types of bacteria are more annoying than harmful. A sample may be negative for harmful bacteria, such as coliform and E. coli, but may still contain other nuisance bacteria. One of the most common bacterial contaminants is sulfur bacteria. Although not harmful in concentrations found in household plumbing, they can be extremely unpleasant.
Sources of Sulfur Bacteria
Sulfur bacteria naturally occur in soil, surface water and ground water, and can be either sulfur-oxidizers or sulfur-reducers.
- Sulfur-oxidizing bacteria chemically change sulfide present in drinking water into sulfate.
- Sulfur-reducing bacteria live in low-oxygen environments, and break down sulfur compounds in the water, producing hydrogen sulfide gas, the “rotten egg” odor.
Are there any health risks related to sulfur bacteria in tap water?
Sulfur bacteria (and iron bacteria) are not known to cause health problems or disease in humans.
Where is the sulfur smell coming from?
- If the smell is only from the hot water faucet, the problem is likely to be in the water heater.
- If the smell is in both the hot and cold faucets, but only from water treated by a water softener and not in the untreated water, the problem is likely with the water softener.
- If the smell is only in the kitchen sink, the problem is likely to be the drain trap.
- If the smell is strong when the water in both the hot and cold faucets is first turned on and it diminishes or goes away after the water has run, or if the smell varies through time, the problem is likely to be sulfur bacteria in the JEA distribution lines.
The sulfur smell may only be noticeable when the water hasn't been run for several hours. These bacteria also produce a slime that may be white, grey, or black. Sulfur bacteria often occur with iron bacteria, so the reddish brown slime found in the toilet tank or bowl could be a combination of both.
How is hydrogen sulfide gas produced in a water heater?
Three primary components are required to produce rotten-egg odors: sulfur, bacteria, and electrons. Sulfur comes from the sulfate ions that are present in ground water, which can be converted to hydrogen sulfide gas with the addition of electrons. Sulfur-reducing bacteria produce enzymes that have the power to accelerate this process if provided an external energy source. To protect any exposed steel within a water heater, a long rod, or anode, is used to provide cathodic protection. This rod is usually made of magnesium, which corrodes more easily than steel. The corrosion of this anode provides many more electrons than are necessary to protect the exposed steel of the water tank, thus providing the energy required by the bacteria to complete the reaction.
What can I do about a problem water heater?
The easiest fix for sulfur problems coming from the hot water heater is to increase the temperature of the water heater to 160°F (71°C) for several hours. This will kill the sulfur bacteria. The water heater should then be flushed to remove the dead bacteria. CAUTION: Be sure to turn the temperature back down to prevent injury from scalding hot water and to avoid high energy costs. This problem can reoccur and retreatment may be required.
The pH value of a solution is a measure of its acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7.0 being neutral. Solutions with a low pH are said to be acidic, and those with a high pH are basic or alkaline.
JEA's water source is the limestone Floridan aquifer and the pH ranges from 7.5 to 8.5.
For more information on pH, refer to this page from the USGS Water Science School.