July 12 (UPI) -- Florida's Lowell Correctional Institution, the largest women's prison in the United States, has been without running water for several days, state officials confirmed, and some inmates said they have had to pay for drinking water.
Florida Department of Corrections officials said storms over the weekend caused damage to the prison's water pumps and geothermal line, which helps cool the non-air conditioned prison.
"Institution maintenance staff responded immediately and have been on scene trying to resolve the issues with assistance from the local fire department and contractors," the FDOC said in a statement. "All inmates have access to drinking water. Toilets and sinks are operational using non-potable water being brought in to the institution."
Non-potable water had been brought into the prison through a tanker provided by the Ocala, Fla., fire department until some running water had been repaired Tuesday. But that water is not drinkable until more tests have been made, reported the Ocala Star Banner.
"The test and waiting period are to ensure the water is safe to drink. Until then, drinking water is being brought in continuously," said Ashley Cook, press secretary for the FDOC.
The Miami Herald reported Monday that inmates have told friends and relatives that they have had to pay for drinking water.
"They say they're bringing water in but they're telling the girls they have to buy it off the canteen,'' a former Lowell inmate wrote on Facebook.
The mother of an inmate said kegs of water are being brought into 64-woman dorms every 3 hours, and prisoners with bottles are able to get more than those without.
Cook denied that description of the situation.
"Staff has continuously monitored the distribution of drinking water to ensure it is continuously supplied to all inmates equally," she said.
But a prison employee, who spoke to the Miami Herald on condition of anonymity so she doesn't lose her job, said the situation is dire.
"It's a disgusting mess; the women are living in subhuman conditions,'' she said.
The prison holds female offenders between the ages of 14 and 24, as well as pregnant women. Built in 1956, it is one of the oldest women's prisons in Florida.