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Caution urged over offer to purify water

Published Feb. 15, 2006

City officials have released a public advisory this month warning residents about a mailing they may have received from a Tampa company that has been investigated for deceptive selling practices.

Southeast Water Services recently sent 15,000 letters to Clearwater homeowners offering to purify their water. But city officials say the company is not associated with the city and that its water is already safe to drink.

In June 2003, Southeast Water Services, then operating as Florida Water and Utilities, agreed to change its name and stop disseminating false or misleading advertisements. These decisions came in a deal with the state Attorney General's Office, according to the Better Business Bureau Web site.

Glenn Daniel, the city's interim water superintendent, said a resident had called complaining about a letter he received from Southeast Water Services. The envelope had "Water Inspection Notice" printed on it, Daniel said, and the letter inside noted it was "For Official Use Only." The resident thought others might mistakenly think it came from a government agency, he said.

Company owner Bernie Rubrecht disputed those claims. "It's a blank envelope; that's not the case," he said Tuesday. "A plain white envelope, bulk mail it says on there."

Rubrecht said his company mailed 15,000 of the solicitations and that they should hardly be considered advertisements.

"It says we test water across Florida, free of charge. We make recommendations," he said.

As for the state attorney general's investigation, said Rubrecht, "That's all been handled."

Daniel said the city does not endorse any private water sampling or filtering companies. If city workers ever needed to fix a water leak or other problem, Clearwater residents would receive an official notification to boil water until the repairs were made.

But residents need not worry, Daniel said. "Our water is safe to drink. It meets or exceeds all EPA standards for drinking water."