Dyan Harpest had to get creative when a burst pipe meant no water for 12 hours at her Coral Springs restaurant in February.
“I (opened) at 6 in the morning and my employees are telling me there’s no water,” Harpest, the owner of Dyan’s Country Kitchen, said.
To stay open Harpest bought water from a retail source and tried calling her water provider, Royal Utility.
“When I made calls they wouldn’t answer. You couldn’t even leave a message,” she said.
Harpest said there was no official notification she needed to boil water for 48 hours and neighbors say they learned of the boil water order from hand-painted signs.
About 4,500 customers in neighborhoods near University Drive all get their water from Royal Utility, which is a private company.
“We pay a lot for the water but we don’t trust the water,” a resident said. “It just doesn’t taste good.”
It’s not just service that consumers are worried about, but water quality.
“There’s been instances where we had to throw out silverware and glasses because the silverware and glasses are stained,” Keith Roberts said.
County records show that in the past five years Royal Utility has had 14 health department violations and been fined $13,000 in violations including for operational problems like a storage tank improperly connected to a drain for lime sludge.
The company was also fined for not notifying the community of high levels of trihalomethanes–or TTHMS–a contaminant that’s been linked to cancer. It’s the same violation we recently reported on in the city of Pembroke Pines water.
“Having bacteria in my water that I don’t know about is a big deal at my house,” Polly Torres said.
In March the company posted a notice saying the aging system needs major improvements. They had tried unsuccessfully to sell to the city of Coral Springs. and without that sale, the company warned it would need to file for a major rate increase.
Royal Utility owner Jock McCartney gave Local 10 News a look at his facility.
McCartney was one of the developers of the community and was forced to take over the water utility when the former owners suddenly went bankrupt, threatening his investment.
When asked if he wants to be in the water business, McCartney said he doesn’t.
“Not really,” he said. “But as long as we’re in it we’re going to be doing good quality water.”
McCartney said he takes all customer complaints seriously, but wants the city to step up with an offer to take over.
“So you are willing to negotiate?” Local 10 News reporter Amy Viteri said.
“Oh yes, we’ve never gotten to that though,” McCartney answered.
Coral Springs Vice Mayor Dan Daley said the city won’t put taxpayers on the hook.
“Man something’s not right and we’ve got to make sure we’re keeping an eye on it,” he said.
Daley said beyond any sale price, engineers have estimated millions of dollars in repairs are still lurking below ground.
“So for 20 years not only were they not making improvements but nobody was really checking in on them,” he said.
Neighbors and business owners want to know who’s going to check on them.
And the neighbors feel as if they’re caught in the middle.
“That’s correct and we’d like to see it right for them and we’d like to see it right for us,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said they have never set a sale price, but a letter from Coral Springs city manager said Royal asked for more than $4 million to sell. The city refused based on the amount of improvements needed and said here have been no further discussions.
“We’re all wondering the next day will we have water, will this happen again,” Harpest said.
Follow this story