By Jane Smith
Negotiations are back on between the Florida Department of Health and Delray Beach over violations in the city’s reclaimed water program.
“A few weeks ago, the City of Delray Beach reached out to the Department of Health to try and settle the case again,” Alexander Shaw, a Health Department spokesman, wrote in an Oct. 25 email to The Coastal Star.
But the Health Department is holding onto its option to sue the city.
Shaw wrote, “The Department hopes to have a signed Consent Order with the city, or a lawsuit filed against the city in the coming weeks.”
If the case goes to Circuit Court, the judge could fine Delray Beach a maximum of up to $5,000 per penalty, per day under the Florida Safe Drinking Water Act, Shaw wrote.
When the Health Department issued its proposed consent order on June 3, it wanted to cite Delray Beach for 11 violations. The proposed penalties were for 12 years of not following its own program that called for annual inspections. Fine total for these violations was $60,000.
In addition, Delray Beach was fined for 576 missing devices that prevent the reclaimed water from flowing back into the drinking water. That proposed fine was $2,229 per location, for a total of $1.3 million. Another 25% was added for the city’s history of non-compliance.
“There aren’t any updates to share at this time,” Laurie Menekou, the publicist hired by the city to answer questions on the reclaimed water program, wrote on Oct. 27.
Negotiations had reached an impasse in early October.
The Health Department planned to fine the city a total of $1.8 million for violations in the program. Reclaimed water is highly treated wastewater suitable only for lawn irrigation, but not safe for drinking by humans and pets.
The Health Department also wants the city to 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.”