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Local drinking water supply not threatened by coronavirus


Water is one of those items Floridians instinctively grab at the store whenever there is the whiff of a crisis, but city and county utility directors say there’s no need to stock up on bottled stuff due to COVID-19.

Rob Bolton, director of Vero Beach Utilities which serves most of the barrier island with drinking water, said he sees no supply-chain issues related to Chinese-made goods that might be needed to keep Vero’s water treatment program running normally. “The City is not aware of any chemical shortages,” Bolton said.

If workers become ill or need to stay home for observation because they’ve had close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, there is a plan to keep the water plants running. “As far as operators, the City has enough licensed operators to cover shifts even if some get isolated,” Bolton said.

“As we do for any emergency situation, the City and County can share resources such as operators, equipment and chemicals if needed (In case there is some type of large outbreak).”

Indian River County Utilities Director Vincent Burke seconded Bolton’s confidence in the local water supply and water treatment capabilities. “IRC Utilities have not heard of any chemical shortages.”

To prevent infection in county facilities like water treatment plants, Burke said, “we are taking precautionary protocols to ensure that work areas are clean, and folks are not coming into work if they feel sick. We have contingency protocols in place should illnesses extend beyond our normal operations.”

The CVS store in Indian River Shores on Monday had a good supply of water on its shelves, but it was sold out of numerous other items that are in demand as COVID-19 outbreaks pop up across the country and uncomfortably close to Indian River County.

All the Lysol-type sprays and disinfecting wipes were gone, and the hand sanitizer shelves were bare. Even the ingredients for homemade hand gel – rubbing alcohol and aloe vera gel – had vanished from stock. All the Zinc supplements were gone, and Vitamin C was running low, indicating that island residents are optimistic that they can ward off the virus by boosting their immune systems.

City and county emergency planners met last Friday in a closed-door session to scope out the emerging COVID-19 threat and how it might stress services or stretch staffing. Indian River County Fire Rescue Chief Tad Stone said the group came out with “no action items,” except the task of “the education of their respective work forces and the current guidance of social distancing, hand washing/sanitizing and to keep current with the appropriate information as it comes out.”

As of Monday afternoon, Chief Stone said the county’s Emergency Operations Center has no follow-up emergency planning meeting scheduled, but local officials are receiving email updates on the rapidly changing issue. “Situation reports will be sent out as new guidance is received from the Health Department or CDC,” Stone said.

The Board of County Commissioners was set to be briefed by public health officials Tuesday on the status of COVID-19 as it relates to our community.