By Rich Pollack
Delray Beach has agreed to pay a $2,000 fine issued by the state health department after investigators found the city failed to clean water storage tanks every five years, an issue that may have led to sediment filtering into drinking water in March 2020.
In a March 26 letter sent to the Florida Department of Health, interim City Manager Jennifer Alvarez said the city would pay the fine for the failure to clean the tanks, as well as keep accurate maintenance records and make improvements to ensure compliance with state regulations.
“As you are aware, the city remains committed to maintain transparency and accountability, and takes all regulatory compliance requirements very seriously,” Alvarez wrote in a letter to Jorge Patino, the health department’s local environmental administrator for water programs.
In his letter to Delray Beach Utilities Director Hassan Hadjimiry, Patino cited the storage tank cleaning issues and said the city failed to keep adequate required records of maintenance issues such as water main flushing.
He also said the city didn’t do a good job of regularly opening and closing water line valves.
In responding, Alvarez said that storage tanks — and the clear well, which also holds treated water — have been cleaned and that a new division has been created to ensure maintenance is done properly and on time.
“Under the newly created Environmental Resources Compliance Division, the city has implemented a regulatory compliance tracking calendar to actively monitor the submittal due dates of all future compliance reports,” she wrote.
A series of system failures last year led to sediment that had gathered at the bottom of the city’s north storage tank — possibly for decades — being released into the drinking water sent to many of the city’s utility customers.
Although not a serious health issue, the sediment caused a discoloration that led to complaints from residents.
An investigation by the health department led to the fines — $1,000 for failure to clean tanks, $750 for poor record keeping and $250 for “expenses the department incurred investigating the matter.”
A check from the city was issued and submitted with Alvarez’s letter.