When Gainesville resident Marilynn Pfeiffer turned on the television one morning in February, she learned her business in Micanopy likely needed to boil their water before serving coffee.
The Old Florida Cafe manager said due to the notice, she stopped the sale of water-based products for two days.
“Thankfully, our customers were pretty understanding,” Pfeiffer said.
Micanopy’s administration placed the town under a precautionary boil water notice Feb. 11 due to an equipment malfunction during a scheduled water tank cleaning required by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, town administrator Debbie Gonano said.
Florida DEP ombudsman Russell Simpson said the incident was caused by an issue with the electrical control panel that controls the water pumps. The malfunction caused water pressure to drop below 20 pounds per square inch, prompting the town’s water utility to issue a boil water notice as a precaution against possible contamination. The incident was Micanopy’s first boil water notice in 2020.
The notice was extended to Feb. 12 due to a DEP requirement that water must pass two consecutive days of bacteriological tests before a boil water notice ends, Simpson said. After water samples were tested, the DEP rated Micanopy’s water as ‘satisfactory’ for bacteria levels.
The notice was lifted.
According to the DEP, low water pressure, power outages and water main breaks are the most common reasons boil water notices are issued across the state. Micanopy’s last boil water notice before the February event, for example, was for a water main break in July 2019.
For Mosswood Farm Store & Bakehouse manager Emily Piazza, it was a challenge to communicate changes to normal operations that the notice caused. Her fears immediately went to the news of a far more severe crisis earlier this decade in a Michigan city.
“We don’t want to create the image of Flint for customers,” she said. “When someone asks why they can’t drink the water, we don’t like the look that not being able to serve it creates, even if it’s done as a precaution.”
As a retail bakery, Mosswood follows water use rules directly from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Piazza said. When under a boil water notice, dishwater and water used in food preparation must come from approved alternative sources.
“A resident can decide whether to follow it or not,” Piazza said. “Businesses can’t say they think the water is fine.”
Piazza decided to close the bakery for both days of the notice to avoid having to purchase, transport and use large amounts of bottled water for normal operations. She said if a boil water notice was issued again, her “go-to decision” would be to close.
But for Coffee n’ Cream owner Kelly Harris, business continued as usual.
“Things happen,” Harris said. “It’s just life, and you just gotta deal with it.”
Coffee n’ Cream contains the only free public restroom in Micanopy, she said. After the town manager informed her that closing was at her discretion, she decided to keep her cafe — referred to as the “lifeblood of the town” by customers — open for business.
With the help of 25 gallons of water, Harris said her cafe weathered the two days of the boil water notice. She plans to maintain her bottled water supply in the event that the town experiences a similar incident down the road.
Students at Micanopy’s schools also felt an impact. Micanopy Academy closed for the first day of the notice, while Micanopy Area Cooperative School informed parents later in the day that their children could return after sending them home in the morning. Representatives from both schools could not confirm to WUFT if they had bottled water stockpiled to deal with a future incident.
Herlong Mansion owner Dan Siari said his team sprang into action during the notice to make sure guests stayed comfortable.
“We try to be prepared,” Siari said.
According to Siari, the bed and breakfast’s staff arrived early to do extra prep work once they learned about the boil water notice. Gallons of water were boiled to ensure that dish washing, cooking and other activities could take place as expected.
The extra preparations were led by the mansion’s resident cook, chef Bonnie Hawkins, Siari said. Her background in the restaurant industry helped staff understand the proper procedures for serving water when under a boil water notice.
Now armed with several cases of bottled water, Siari believes his staff is ready to handle any water issue that may spring up in the future.
“Things happen,” Siari said. “And we have a plan to get through it again.”