By Jane Smith
The Florida Department of Health will sue Delray Beach to enforce the city’s alleged violations of the Florida Safe Drinking Water Act after negotiations reached an impasse.
“Unfortunately, the parties were unable to reach an agreement on the Consent Order,” department spokesman Alexander Shaw wrote in an Oct. 4 email to The Coastal Star. “The Department will be filing a complaint with the Court.”
No date has been set for the court filing in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
“The city has not been served with a complaint,” said City Attorney Lynn Gelin via email through Delray Beach's reclaimed water publicist, Laurie Menekou.
The Department of Health decided to file a lawsuit after four months of negotiations did not reach an agreement.
Delray Beach received the proposed consent order on June 3. The department wants to fine the city $1.8 million over its botched reclaimed water program. Reclaimed water is highly treated wastewater suitable only for lawn irrigation, not for drinking by humans and pets.
The city did not inspect the sites of the reclaimed water connections annually, as required, to determine if they each had a working backflow device. The mechanism prevents reclaimed water from flowing back into the drinking water system.
Although the city created its reclaimed water program with a manual, it never followed its own instructions calling for annual inspections of each connection site, according to the consent order.
That’s why the department wanted the city to pay the sizable fine and publish a public notice acknowledging it “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.”