A timeline of troubles

2005 — Delray Beach begins planning for installation of reclaimed-water lines on the barrier island as part of a settlement reached with state and federal regulators to stop sending raw sewage into the ocean. The city hires contractors to do the work and monitor it. The South Florida Water Management District supplies grants to pay for the system.
April 1, 2009 — The South Central Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant that serves Delray Beach sends its last raw sewage discharge into the Atlantic Ocean. The plant can still discharge treated wastewater from heavy rains, from testing its pumps and from “plant upsets.”
Oct. 4, 2018 — Delray Beach activates the last segment of its reclaimed-water system on the barrier island, from Casuarina Road to Linton Boulevard.
Nov. 11, 2018 — Residents along South Ocean Boulevard and the Seagate neighborhood reported the drinking water smelled, was darker in color and had floating solids. Some had reclaimed water mistakenly hooked up to their beach showers, hose bibs and vegetable gardens, which is not allowed.
Dec. 6, 2018 — Delray Beach becomes aware of the cross-connection issues where drinking-water lines were mistakenly hooked into the reclaimed-water system. Some users said they were sick after drinking the contaminated tap water. Delray Beach did not report the illnesses, as required, to the county division of the Florida Health Department.
Dec. 28, 2018 through Jan. 4, 2019 — Reclaimed-water system was turned off because the treatment plant had an unknown “plant upset” and needed to use the outfall pipe to discharge treated wastewater into the ocean. Delray Beach uses that same pipe to supply the barrier island with reclaimed wastewater. Delray Beach alerted barrier island customers about the shutdown on the city website.
Feb. 4-8, 2019 — Reclaimed-water system turned off again because of unknown “plant upset” at the treatment plant. Delray Beach again alerted barrier island customers on the city webpage.
Jan. 2, 2020 — Leslie Campbell of South Ocean Boulevard contacts the county division of the Florida Health Department to say she was not adequately notified of the cross-contamination issues in late 2018. Her complaint triggers a Health Department investigation.
Feb. 4 — The Health Department wants Delray Beach to issue a citywide boil-water order. The Health Department also is investigating why it wasn’t notified in late 2018 when residents became ill from drinking contaminated water, as required. The city avoids a boil- water notice by agreeing to shut off the reclaimed-water system and check every location on the barrier island that receives both drinking and reclaimed water.
Feb. 5 — City deploys more than 75 workers to hang notices on barrier island customers’ doors to tell them the reclaimed water was “temporarily shut off.” The door hanger simply says the work is being done “at the behest of the Health Department.” The city hires contractors to work alongside staff to check every house with reclaimed and drinking water lines for cross-connections and missing backflow preventers.
Feb. 14 — A second notice is hung on doorknobs.
March 3 — Reclaimed water still not flowing. The Health Department investigation continues.

Sources: Delray Beach public records, Department of Health public records and The Coastal Star archives

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