Local 1,4-dioxane questions answered

A map shows the areas where contamination had been found.
A map shows the areas where contamination had been found. Image courtesy of Seminole County.

Readers asked OCN whether their drinking water was safe after reports surfaced about the presence of toxic chemical 1,4-dioxane in water sources in northwest Seminole County over what could have been decades, reported in the Orlando Sentinel

Health effects associated with exposure to the chemical include types of cancer and harm to the liver and nasal tissue, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

The EPA required community water systems nationwide to test for 1,4-dioxane between 2013 and 2015. High concentrations of the chemical were found in west Seminole County, Sanford and Lake Mary and reportedly linked to an industrial site that manufactured telephone systems parts, owned by Stromberg-Carlson and then Siemens. 

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According to an Orlando Sentinel article, the municipalities were able to reduce the chemical’s concentration levels after the 2013 discovery – in Lake Mary by building a new water treatment system in 2021, and in Sanford and Seminole County by shutting down contaminated water wells. 

The county reported recently receiving 42 emails and 53 phone calls about 1,4-dioxane concerns. OCN contacted the City of Oviedo and the City of Winter Springs, asking about local water testing.

Winter Springs spokesperson Matt Reeser said the city was well below the “allowable limit” for 1,4-dioxane (which is .35 parts per billion) when the mandatory tests were conducted in 2013 but that the city has ordered new water tests for the chemical as a precautionary measure. 

The results are expected within several weeks and he said there will be an update on the findings at the Aug. 14 City Commission meeting. 

Oviedo Utilities Manager Steve Santiago also said that the city’s 1,4-dioxane level was not detected during the 2013 mandated testing. He did not indicate that further testing would be done. 

“The contamination of the drinking water wells in the Sanford, Lake Mary, and areas in Seminole County identified in the Orlando Sentinel article are directly correlated to solvents used at a manufacturing facility,” he wrote in an email to OCN. “The City of Oviedo drinking water well sites are not located near or in the vicinity of any such commercial manufacturing facility such as mentioned in the Orlando Sentinel article.” 

On Tuesday, the Seminole County Commission agreed to urge the EPA to adopt 1,4-dioxane regulations, according to a Sentinel report. The county currently has a website dedicated to 1,4-dioxane information and agreed to create an online dashboard reporting water quality and contamination levels associated with various chemicals.  

Seminole County officials said another chemical they are concerned about is perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The county will start testing water wells, wastewater, and landfill-contaminated water to see if there’s a problem locally.  

For questions about well testing, contact the Florida Department of Health at 407-665-3611 or joyce.bittle@flhealth.gov

The OCN newsroom focuses on public-service journalism. If you have questions about your community, the OCN team is happy to seek answers for you. Contact our team here.

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