MIRAMAR, Fla. – Miramar residents who are angry about having to deal with costly copper pipe repairs at homes that are only about two decades old are still searching for answers. They do have a tenacious expert on their side now.
Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech Civil Engineering professor, has helped to expose issues with water in Flint and Washington. And although the situation in Miramar is not about lead-laced water, the environmental engineer has plenty of experience with using data to confront water regulators.
Edwards believes the copper pipes in Miramar are getting damaged because of the method the city uses to treat the water. He has seen this happen to other communities, and he believes it is due to changes in pH and chlorine.
“Sometimes making the water cleaner actually makes it more likely to cause these holes,” Edwards said about the damage to copper pipes.
City officials disagree. Shaun Gayle, the city’s assistant city manager, released a statement saying the water quality complies with all parameters of Florida Department of Environmental Protection regulations. Edwards said this isn’t enough.
There isn’t a legal requirement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to prohibit the utility’s water from causing these pinhole leaks, Edwards said. Meaning, the water could meet the existing standards and still be behind these problems and others.
The West Water Treatment Plant began using reverse osmosis to filter the water about a decade ago, officials said. City officials said they tested the water and performed corrosion studies. There is still no official determination as to what is causing the problem.
“Pipe leaks can be caused by a myriad of factors other than water quality,” Gayle said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Avi Barel said business is booming. He owns a plumbing business and said that when he gets a call from a Miramar property owner, he already knows how tedious his work is going to be. The pipe issues are also causing mold in some homes, affecting property values and insurance rates.
“The economic consequences of this are horrific,” Edwards said.
Related story (Feb. 19): Homeowners facing costly repairs for leaky pipes blame city of Miramar’s water