By Rich Pollack
Following through on inquiries from state regulators, Delray Beach’s Utilities Department is finishing up efforts to clean water storage tanks that had not been properly maintained in at least five years, while at the same time it takes steps to enhance maintenance procedures and improve drinking water quality and aesthetics.
“Our goal is to assure that people will be happy with their water and we’re hoping we can also further improve the color of the water,” said Utilities Director Hassan Hadjimiry.
Since September — when the Florida Department of Health began investigating Delray’s failure to inspect and, if necessary, clean water storage tanks at required intervals — the city has completed cleaning of its north water storage tank and last month completed cleaning of its 2-million-gallon south water storage tank.
Cleansing of another south tank, which holds 500,000 gallons, was scheduled to be completed by the end of October and cleaning of the city’s clear well — a tank that contains water as it moves through the treatment process — is set to begin in early November. That cleaning will take up to three weeks.
Once that project is completed, Delray Beach will have cleaned all of its water storage tanks and will be in compliance with state regulations that require water storage tanks to be inspected and cleaned at least every five years.
The city is still awaiting results of the state health department’s investigation into the storage tank cleaning, as well as an investigation into an issue Delray Beach had with reclaimed water commingling with drinking water.
Those issues are also the focus of an inquiry by the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General, which will make recommendations for corrective actions, should they be needed.
Hadjimiry and his team are already a few steps ahead of that investigation, having instituted several new processes and procedures.
In recent weeks Hadjimiry has implemented a new method of tracking tank inspections and cleanings, with the process now becoming the responsibility of the department’s regulatory compliance division. Additional maintenance activities are being tracked through a public-asset management program that tracks projects to completion.
Under Hadjimiry, who came to Delray Beach from Palm Beach County Water Utilities in June, the department also stocks critical parts so they’re on hand if needed and the city has vendor contracts in place to provide parts and service on short notice.
The department is also in the process of hiring a new water plant manager, filling a position that has been vacant since May.
“We’re going to do the most we can do for the overall quality of water,” Hadjimiry said, reinforcing his contention that the city’s drinking water is safe and in compliance with state and federal regulations.
One of several projects the Utilities Department has planned going forward is a study of ways to improve the aesthetics of the water coming out of faucets. An often-repeated complaint from residents is that Delray’s water is discolored, frequently with a yellow tint.
Hadjimiry said he hopes to further improve the color through a combination of processes. “I want to see if we can bring up the color of the water,” he said.
Also in the works is a study to see if the city can provide an extra level of disinfection into the water treatment process, one that goes beyond regulations and is currently used by the Palm Beach County Water Utilities department.
The city Utilities Department recently completed cleaning of the aerators used in the water treatment process and Hadjimiry is expected to ask the City Commission to approve spending $900,000 to replace filters that are critical to the treatment process. Ú