Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

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UPDATE:

The Florida Department of Health in Collier County (FDOH) confirmed to NBC2 that the Department of Environmental Protection is now investigating the water quality issues in Copeland. 

“This community has been ignored by Collier County for far too long, and the infrastructure is literally crumbling,” said Haylee Twedell, a longtime Copeland resident. 

According to residents, the community’s water was cut off on Monday evening and a boil water notice was issued on September 27. 

The Copeland Civic Association has been re-activated in order to spur public discussion about the crisis, and plans on hosting a public meeting in November. 

ORIGINAL STORY:

COPELAND, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Collier County confirmed that E. Coli has been found inside a Copeland resident’s home.

Lisa Walker, a long-time community member and military veteran, shared this at-home test that was analyzed by FDOH. She told NBC2 that in the spring, her water also tested positive for lead and copper.

“Started having emergency room visits, doctor visits, couldn’t figure out what’s wrong with you. You change your diet, change what you drink, laundry, soap, all the bath materials. Nothing changes — the only thing that you can’t change is the water you bathe in,” said Walker.

Residents living in the small town located in the southeastern portion of Collier County point to a boil water notice that was put into place in March via their good company, U.S. Water Service Corporation. Following the boil water notice, residents began to see yellowish water that smelled strongly of rotten eggs.

“My son just got an infection out of nowhere. I just got sick of going to my doctor and not knowing what was wrong with me. So I said I need to get the water tested because it’s the only thing that hasn’t changed,” said Walker.

While only Walker’s home has been tested for E. Coli, the community believes that the problem stems from the well that provides water to the entire town.

“It’s like a chain reaction. Everybody has it. We all run off of this well,” added Walker.

Residents expressed concerns over a large rust-colored buildup they repeatedly find across all entry points of water, including shower heads, sinks, and toilets.

“My shower is stained. My toilet is stained. I have to bleach and scrub, and nothing comes off,” added Mackynzie Redmond, another Copeland resident.

NBC2 spoke to multiple people living in Copeland who have suffered health effects they believe stem from the E. Coli contamination.

“Behind my daughter’s ear, I constantly have to watch because my daughter has eczema; it’s raw. Wiping it, washing it, she cries. Within a month of my son being born, he had red dots all over his face and the whole body,” said Haylee Twedell, who was raised in Copeland.

“I gotta big old rash that I’ve never had before. I got it all in my head. Sores on my head,” JoAnne Burgess continued.

“I have rashes everywhere. On my back, my side, my butt, rashes everywhere,” said Barbara Riggins.

FDOH told NBC2 that they plan on getting in contact with the U.S. Water Service Corporation, as is standard procedure to ensure all safety protocols are being followed.

In the meantime, official guidelines state to avoid drinking, bathing, or washing fruits and vegetables with E. Coli contaminated drinking water.

“We’re still people. We have kids. We have no other option. This is it. My son would call it a monopoly effect. We just want clean water,” said Walker.  

“I just want to bathe my children with peace of mind. So they won’t get infections, bacteria, it’s insane,” added Twedell.

This is an ongoing story. Count on NBC2 for more information as it becomes available.

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