West Palm's water solution after E. coli crisis

By Juan Carlos Fanjul - bio | email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The city has spent the last 18 months coming up with a long-term plan that would prevent the E. coli contamination of 2007 from ever happening again.

That's when they found an aging water pipe, dating back to 1926, that was sending contaminated water into homes.

Since then, the water has been cleaned out and deemed to be perfectly safe.

Now, with a look toward the future and improvements at the plant staffers feel membrane technology, a web of spaghetti-like filters, would make the water the cleanest in South Florida.

"It's a tightly packed filter that removes all the contaminants and pollutants from the water. It's much more efficient than what we currently use. It's really state of the art way to treat the water," said assistant city administrator Eduardo Balbis.

Doctor Alina Alonso who heads the Palm Beach County Health Department signed off on the proposal. "The advantage of the membrane is that if the system fails, the membrane would pick up e-coli. This is the best option."

The whole project to rehab the existing water plant near Clear Lake would cost $63 million -- much lower than the projected $100-plus million price tag.

Rate increases back in 2008 and 2009 took that into account and now with the lower price tag, customers will not pay anything extra and actually should see a rate reduction in 2012.

City commissioners are expected to approve the plan soon.