By Mary Thurwachter

Acting Mayor Karen Lythgoe had a welcoming smile on her face when a resident, tin box in hand, approached the dais during the Feb. 13 Lantana Town Council meeting. The box didn’t contain what Lythgoe expected.
“I guess you don’t want the yellow water,” the woman, holding a cookie tin with liquid inside, said with a chuckle.
“I thought it was cookies,” Lythgoe laughed. “My swearing-in is coming up next month and there will be cookies.”
Lythgoe, who becomes mayor March 27 after running unopposed to fill the unexpired term created by the resignation of former Mayor Robert Hagerty, didn’t want the yellow water.
No one does.
Over the last two years, residents have complained about olive greenish water in their swimming pools, Invisalign trays for their teeth that had yellowed from the drinking water, and even discolored water their pooches refused to swallow.
The drinking water in Lantana isn’t all yellow, but people who have it don’t like it and have made that clear to town officials.
Eddie Crockett, public services director, insists the water is safe.
“The clarity of the water is not really related to the quality of the water,” Crockett said at a meeting last year when the topic came up. “The drinking water is absolutely safe. It meets all state and federal requirements.”
The town is working on the problem, but it will take time and cost millions. It all goes back to the water treatment plant, which was last refurbished in 2003 and is being updated.
A plant filter and media replacement project began in 2021 with an original budget of $1.24 million. Supply chain issues have slowed the progress, according to Rebecca Travis of Baxter & Woodman Inc., the town’s engineering firm.
“Once the project started, our consultants/engineers quickly realized that the project was more involved than initially anticipated and as a result, an additional $1.26 million was included in the town’s 2022/23 budget for this project,” Crockett said.
In addition, with the assistance of the town’s lobbyist, the town is pursuing state funding for this project and others from the state Legislature, Crockett said in an email to The Coastal Star.
The project is expected to be completed in the next year or two. In the interim, the town has an ongoing and aggressive hydrant flushing process to mitigate the water discoloration, Crockett said.
As part of the efforts to revitalize the water treatment plant, the council approved a change order Feb. 13 for RF Environmental Services, Inc., to install temporary valves to support the replacement of the high-service pumps at the plant for $210,793.09. The high-service pumps are used to move high volumes of treated water into the town’s potable water distribution system.
A contractor had discovered that three valves needed to isolate the existing high-service pumps could not be turned off. The temporary valves are needed to allow the water to be completely shut off to complete the project.
Money for the temporary valves will come from the utility fund’s reserves and will be included in the mid-year budget amendment in March.

In other news, the town learned that it will be receiving a $167,000 grant from the Resilient Florida program to help prepare the community for the impacts of flooding and storm surge.
The town will do a vulnerability assessment for town-owned properties along the Ocean Avenue corridor from U.S. Highway 1 to the beach, which includes Bicentennial Park, Lyman Kayak Park, Sportsman’s Park boat ramps, Lantana Nature Preserve and the beach facilities.

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