For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 21, 2021
Contact: Jerry Phillips (850) 877-8097; Kirsten Stade firstname.lastname@example.org
Florida Issues Drinking Water Safety Citations
Delray Plagued by Persistent Contamination with Partially Treated Sewage
Tallahassee — Years-long failures by the City of Delray to protect residents’ drinking water lines from cross-contamination with reclaimed sewage water have triggered state fines, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Department of Health has issued remediation directives and is recommending multi-million dollar fines against the city for a host of safe drinking water violations.
In its consent order with the City, the Florida Department of Public Heath cited “multiple customer complaints about the drinking water color, odor, and resident illnesses” due to longstanding breakdowns in Delray’s water distribution system, including –
- Hundreds of customers lacking backflow protections to prevent cross-contamination;
- Failure “to conduct periodic inspections of customer connections” or to maintain a complete inventory of those connections; and
- Failure to inform customers or the Department of Health of contamination issues, as required by law.
“Delray’s potable water system violations have been compounded by an utter abdication of accountability by top city officials,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former state Department of Environmental Protection enforcement attorney, noting attempts by city officials to quash reports of water quality problems. “It should be hard for Delray residents to believe city safety assurances after state findings recounting years of public health duplicity.”
The consent order also directs Delray to publish the following public notice within 30 days:
“The City of Delray Beach cannot assure utility customers that the drinking water produced and distributed met the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act for the period from inception of the reclaimed water service beginning in 2007 to the time reclaimed water was deactivated on February 4, 2020.”
“According to the FDOH documents, the City has known about these problems for years and yet the management has still been allowed to run this den of malfeasance. People were beginning to give up hope,” added Phillips, noting that the state Department of Health is recommending a $3 million fine. “While these are substantial penalties, the Department of Health had the discretion to levy much, much heavier fines.”
This consent order does not reflect recent tests showing high levels of toxic PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in Delray’s potable and reclaimed water. PFAS are a family of chemicals directly linked to cancers, as well as liver and thyroid diseases, and may also impact the immune system, reducing antibody responses to vaccines such as those for COVID.