Monday, November 20, 2017
News Roundup

Port Richey leaders feud over water quality

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PORT RICHEY — When city council member Terry Rowe looked at the water in his toilet tank last month he was thoroughly disgusted.

It looked like coffee, he would later tell his colleagues on the board as he presented a picture of his toilet during a Feb. 25 council meeting. Rowe told the Times he displayed the picture out of frustration over the council's lack of action in dealing with water complaints.

His methods, however, did not sit well City Manager Tom O'Neill and Mayor Eloise Taylor, who made an extensive presentation during a meeting Tuesday, saying the city's water quality has been thoroughly tested and greatly improved in the past year. And testing of water in Rowe's home showed his water quality to be "acceptable," Taylor said.

"The claims by Mr. Rowe simply do not stand up to scrutiny and they do not stand up to the facts," she said.

Rowe took offense, saying the water quality has not been fixed and is an "embarrassment" to the city.

"What's not acceptable is one of my colleagues insinuating that I'm lying about my water. I brought a picture because of something I found intolerable," Rowe said. "I assure you, Mayor, I did not take a coffee pot and pour coffee down my toilet just for kicks."

All this comes a year after Port Richey had a brown water outbreak that forced the city to scale back its production due to salt water intrusion in its wells. As a remedy, Port Richey increased the amount of water it buys from New Port Richey to ease pressure on the wells and meet the daily demand of between 800,000 and 900,000-gallons. Currently, the city is supplying 500,000 gallons a day and buying the rest from New Port Richey, O'Neill said Friday.

O'Neill said the measures have dramatically increased the city's water quality and the only complaints he has received this year have been two from Rowe. He responded with testing of water in Rowe's home that showed quality to be fine.

"We've worked very hard and I think the city's water quality is on par with any water system in the area," O'Neill said.

Rowe and O'Neill had a tense email exchange following the meeting.

"I take issue with your comments and photographic display regarding City water quality at the City Council meeting last night. Your continued comments and actions, without any prior discussion with the city professional utility operations staff, are in my opinion less than factual and less than acceptable conduct for a responsible elected official," O'Neill wrote in a Feb. 26 email to Rowe.

Rowe responded: "I couldn't care less what you take issue with."

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