By Jane Smith
Delray Beach may have to pay slightly more than $1.8 million for health violations in its reclaimed water program.
The violations go back to 2007, according to the proposed consent order from the Florida Department of Health Palm Beach County. A consent order is a legal agreement between the department and the city settling the violations.
As part of the agreement, the city will have to publish a public notice saying 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.”
Laurie Menekou, a spokeswoman for the city’s utilities department, wrote on June 3 in a text, “The city received a proposal from the DOH which we are in the process of reviewing.”
Delray Beach and its lawyers “can, should they choose to, negotiate with the Department,” wrote Alexander Shaw, department spokesman, in a May 24 email.
Eight of the 11 violations warranted a penalty more than $5,000, according to the consent order.
The highest penalty was assessed for 581 missing backflow preventers for a total of more than $1.3 million.
Reclaimed water is highly treated wastewater that is suitable only for lawn irrigation. Backflow preventers are needed at each reclaimed water location to stop the reclaimed water from flowing back into the drinking water system.
The city cannot use what has already been spent on bringing the reclaimed water project into compliance as a part of any negotiations.
The Department of Health became involved when a South Ocean Boulevard resident called on Jan. 2, 2020, to say she was not fully informed of a cross connection discovered in December 2018. Cross connections happen when the drinking water pipes are erroneously hooked into the reclaimed water pipes.