Delray Beach approves settlement for alleged water contamination

Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 5:11 PM EST
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Delray Beach on Tuesday approved a negotiated $1 million settlement with the Florida Department of Health over alleged problems with the city's reclaimed water program, Contact 5 has learned.

The negotiated consent order requires the city to comply with a series of corrective actions, accusing it of nine violations surrounding the program.

The thrust of the allegations center around the cross-contamination of drinking and reclaimed water sources.

Reclaimed water is not suitable for drinking, bathing or household chores.

The state initially had previously proposed a $1.8 million settlement.

It also wanted Delray Beach to tell its citizens it couldn't assure that drinking water had met the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act for 13 years. That specific language is no longer included in the updated consent order.

"This opens the door for the next steps in terms of utility operations, infrastructure improvements," said City Manager Terrence Moore. "Most importantly, an assuredness that a safe environment is available across the board."

WPTV learned Tuesday that taxpayers will be on the hook for the settlement with the caveat that some of that money could be recouped through insurance.

Under the settlement, the city said, it has three years to make sure it is in compliance.

Delray Beach resident Linda Polly shows Contact 5 investigator Michael Buczyner her water bills...
Delray Beach resident Linda Polly shows Contact 5 investigator Michael Buczyner her water bills from the city.

Tuesday's vote came after the Florida Department of Health threatened in September to file a lawsuit against the city after three months of stalled negotiations.

Contact 5 spoke with Delray Beach resident Linda Polly in June after a whistleblower claimed to discover a cross-connection that mixed reclaimed water with the water coming out of her tap.

"I was taken by ambulance to the hospital because of vomiting and diarrhea," she said.

She said she got sick weeks later in January 2019. Polly believes her illness is attributed to the water, but there's no proof.

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