Riviera Beach water utility fined $10,000 - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Riviera Beach water utility fined $10,000

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The FOX 29 Investigators uncover what the Department of Health says is the largest public water concern in Palm Beach County in nearly a decade.

Florida's Department of Health has fined Riviera Beach's Utility District $10,000 for a list of violations over the last two years. It includes failing to report lead and copper results, failing to warn the public of bacteria in the water and consistently failing to meet minimum chlorine levels.

The FOX 29 Investigators obtained documents from the Department of Health showing the Riviera Beach Utility District has struggled to keep minimum levels of chlorine in dozens of areas over the last two years.

In March 2015 records show 20% of all water and Riviera Beach's system tested positive for bacteria, but no one in Riviera Beach was ever warned.

"In this particular instance they had a failure to notify their community," said Tim O'Connor from the Department of Health Palm Beach County office. 

O'Connor says with bacteria levels four times higher than state and federal limits Riviera Beach was required to issue a boil advisory but for one reason or another did not.

FOX 29 reached out to city leaders and the executive director for the utility district looking for answers but we were told no one was available to speak with us.

When we showed up to the water utilities offices unannounced we learned that administrators were in a meeting at the city manager's office trying to determine how to respond to our questions.

FOX 29 received this statement shortly afterwards:

The City of Riviera Beach Utility Special District, as part of operating a public water treatment plant, is required to provide monthly water samples to the Palm Beach County Health Department.

The Palm Beach County Health Department reviews monthly operating reports provided by the District.  Based on the results of certain outlying areas, the District did not meet certain state requirements for its water.

In December 2015, the District received a notice for violations which occurred in 2014 and early 2015.  The District took action to comply and paid an administrative penalty of $10,000.  Staff has worked diligently to address these issues.  

The City of Riviera Beach Utility Special District provides a safe and reliable drinking water source to city residents and business owners within the city, as well as areas of unincorporated Palm Beach County.  In order to supply our residents with clean water, it is necessary to add certain chemicals to the water during the water treatment process.  One of those chemicals is chlorine which added to the water treatment process disinfects the water and makes it safe and healthy to drink. 

The City is in the process of a multi-million dollar infrastructure improvement program to automate the disinfections system, to stabilize levels of disinfectant in the drinking water.    

The water provided by the City of Riviera Beach Utility Special District is and always has been safe to drink. 

There are ongoing concerns with the water system in Riviera Beach. The Department of Health confirms that it recently sent two more warning letters to the city's water utility for low chlorine levels and positive bacteria tests. We will be following up with city leaders and the utility for more answers.

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