By Rich Pollack
Issues with the Delray Beach water utilities program, which has included cross contamination of drinking water with reclaimed water and not properly cleaned storage tanks, will now be scrutinized by the county’s Office of Inspector General.
Inspector General John Carey, in a memo dated Oct. 2, informed Delray Beach’s interim City Manager Jennifer Alvarez that his office is beginning an investigation into compliance with Florida Department of Health reporting requirements and other related issues that could surface.
“The investigation will focus on individual responsibilities and conduct in regard to established policies, ordinances, regulations, rules and statutes,” Carey wrote. “This will be done regarding the conduct of staff and officials in their records submissions and statements about water safety, quality and management.”
Municipalities with water treatment facilities are required to submit regularly scheduled reports to the Florida Department of Health in order to demonstrate they have followed health and safety regulations. They are also required to undergo periodic inspections.
The Florida Department of Health is investigating an issue Delray Beach had with reclaimed water commingling with drinking water. Earlier this month the Health Department advised the city that it is investigating a possible violation of rules requiring cleaning of water storage tanks every five years.
Carey said that his office has been in contact with the Health Department and the two will coordinate the separate investigations.
He said that while the Health Department investigation focuses on the actions of the city, his department will look at the role of individuals and make recommendations for corrective actions should they be needed.
“We look at what are the standards, did they comply and if not what are the possible corrective actions,” Carey said.
The department, according to Carey, will not go into specific recommendations, such as suggestions regarding personnel issues, but will focus instead on broader corrective actions, should they be needed.
In the memo he said that the investigation will include, but is not limited to, interviews with individuals, an analysis of city records and an examination of related records kept by water quality organizations including the Department of Health.
Jennifer Alvarez, the City's interim city manager said the City will work with the investigators.
"Delray Beach is committed to working closely and openly with the OIG, as with the Department of Health, to ensure the matter is thoroughly reviewed and deficiencies are property addressed," she said.
While the state Health Department and county inspector general examinations continue, Delray Beach officials have taken steps to ensure drinking water is safe. The city has spent more than $1 million to bring its reclaimed water system into compliance with state standards by inspecting every reclaimed water connection in the city.
It has also cleaned or is in the process of cleaning water storage tanks throughout the city to bring them into compliance with state health and safety requirements.