Every day, a service population of 440,000 and tens of thousands of visitors rely on OUC’s clean drinking water to fuel their lives. And, even though OUC’s water comes from the pristine Lower Floridan Aquifer more than 1,000 feet below ground, and requires little cleaning – a team of scientists perform some 20,000 tests each year to ensure only the purest water is coming from the tap.
“I really love what I do, and it’s actually a little different each day because we do field testing as well,” said Donna McCue, Water Quality Lab Supervisor. “We’re so lucky to have the aquifer as our source of drinking water, because so little needs to be done in the treatment process.”
OUC pumps more than 31 billion gallons per year and uses ozone generators as the primary disinfectant. The pH is adjusted to prevent corrosion, and a small bit of chlorine is added to maintain disinfection within the pipes of the distribution system. A little fluoride is also added to prevent tooth decay.
“We test for many different things from bacteria to metals, and we go above and beyond what we are required by law to do,” said Chris Russell, Manager of Water Resources & Compliance.
Once a month, Water Production staff collect samples from each of 155 sample points across OUC’s 200-square-mile water service area to test for the presence of bacteria. The lab then tracks, analyzes, and reports the results to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. They also perform bacteriological tests if water pressure drops within the system or if a line or water main were to break.
“That doesn’t happen often, but when it does we are always ready,” said McCue. The lab also performs groundwater tests to ensure the Stanton Energy Center remains a zero-liquid discharge facility meaning all water used in the power generation process remains onsite. “Our five chemists take great pride in the important work of safeguarding the public,” Russell said.
When asked if they would compare a sample of OUC water against expensive brand name bottled water, McCue smiled. “I’m sure we stack up very well, and we’ve done that comparison before. Maybe it’s time we take another look at just how clean and inexpensive H2OUC is compared to bottled water,” she commented.
Here’s a video spotlight on Jaritza Pluguez, a Senior Chemist at the Water Quality Lab.