BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. - What was meant to be an April Fools' Day joke quickly turned humorless when a Florida utility was bombarded with phone calls from residents concerned about the safety of its water.
As a result of the prank, popular Gator Country 101.9 morning hosts Val St. John and Scott Fish have been suspended indefinitely.
"They made a bad call. It was a bad call," said Gator Country General Manager Tony Renda.
St. John and Fish began announcing on the air Monday morning that there was "dihydrogen monoxide" in the Lee County water supply.
A post on the Val and Scott in the Morning Facebook page reads, "'Dihydrogen monoxide'.... there’s water in the water!"
Comments under the post from the hosts said there was no harm intended.
Patti DiPiero, a Lee County Utilities spokeswoman, said they began to get calls from concerned residents, but utility employees heard it on their way to work and reported it when they came in.
"When it comes to the drinking water supply, it is critical people understand there is not something wrong," she said. "If we did want the news out there, that's not how we would do it."
Lee County Utilities quickly verified there was no problem and issued a release to the media that the water supply was safe to use.
At the same time, Gator Country stopped the reports and apologized.
"Every break we've had, we've been going on and making sure everyone knows it was an April Fools' joke,” Renda said. "We want our listeners to understand everything is perfectly safe."
When someone messes with food, water or shelter, he or she crosses the line with people's sense of security, Renda said.
Lee County Utilities was also contacted by the Florida Department of Health in Lee County, who then contacted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee so they would know there was not a problem with the water.
A spokesperson for DEP said they had been told it was a hoax and would not be following up.
Diane Hold, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Lee County, said the department is pleased Gator Country management corrected the issue quickly.
"Water supplies are a serious matter," she said.