Florida Prisons

Drinking water still not flowing at state women’s prison

The women at Lowell Correctional Institution will endure another three days without running drinking water after tests Thursday showed the water wasn’t safe to drink, officials said.

The prison’s 2,600 inmates have been without running water since Saturday, when a storm blew out the facility’s water pump and geo-thermal cooling system. The pump has been repaired, and toilets, showers and its cooling system were up and running Wednesday, said Michelle Glady, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections.

Coolers of water have been brought into the prison for inmates and staff, as crews began testing the drinking water over the past few days. On Thursday, the inmates were allowed to drink the water for a time, after a test showed it was safe, Glady said.

By afternoon, however, the system failed a second test and the prison began once again administering water from coolers that was brought in by a private contractor.

It will be at least another three days of testing before the inmates will possibly be allowed to have water from the faucets and sinks to drink, depending on the results, she said.

Glady said no one has been sick and there’s been enough water to go around, despite reports from family members of inmates who claim that corrections officers had been rationing water and prohibiting inmates who felt ill from seeking medical attention.

“There have been no cases of illness,’’ Glady said. “We are working around the clock to get the prison back to normal.’’

Like all state prisons in Florida, Lowell, located just outside Ocala in Marion County, does not have air conditioning. Instead, it relies on a geo-thermal cooling system, which agency officials have admitted doesn’t work very well. Staff said that it doesn’t work at all in many of Lowell’s dorms.

The prison — the largest women’s facility in the country — has had a history of sanitary problems, including worms and mold in the sinks and showers, health records show. The prison, built in 1956, is the oldest prison housing female inmates, including pregnant women and youthful offenders. It also houses women on death row.