PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis is pushing back against a statement from the Florida Department of Health regarding the city's drinking water that claims "the water is currently not meeting the standards for disinfectant byproducts."
"(There is) nothing wrong, Amy, nothing wrong with the water in Pembroke Pines," Ortis told Local 10 News investigative reporter Amy Viteri.
The byproducts mentioned in the DOH's statement are trihalomethanes, or TTHMs.
Tests late last year in one area of the city showed an excessive level of contaminants in the water. The city sent out a letter, required by state law, to residents about the violation, explaining that high levels of TTHM's can lead to liver and kidney issues and even cancer.
A Pembroke Pines resident, identified only as Joe, said he was confused when he got a second letter on Feb. 23 about the water. He said language in the first notice was scary, and the second letter claimed that the water was always safe.
The health department reacted with a warning notice, accusing the city of disseminating misleading information about the water. The department has since launched an investigation.
Meanwhile, Joe, whose wife was just diagnosed with cancer, was left confused and worried.
"Especially since my wife's going to start chemotherapy and radiation therapy," he said.
"The health department is saying that it's potentially misleading to send the second letter that the city sent," Viteri told the mayor.
"Well, we disagree with the health department," Ortis said. "Obviously, they're going to fine us the $2,400. That is normal, but everything is fine."
Joe said he questions whether everything really is fine.
"I wonder if the mayor is really doing his job. He's supposed to be protecting us," Joe said.
"When people are hearing one thing from the health department and another thing from city leaders, they feel like their health is caught in the middle," Viteri told the mayor.
"I understand, their health," Ortis said. "No reason to worry in this city."