BOCA RATON, Fla. - The Palm Beach County Health Department says Boca Raton's water utility is violating state water safety statutes, and has been for years.
The Health Department filed a notice of violations, citing five counts. Most don't directly affect the drinking supply. But one suggests waste water could be mixing with drinking water at nine of more points in the water system.
Joan Abell lives in the southern part of Boca Raton. She doesn't normally drink the water that comes out of her faucet, but she does wash her dishes with tap water.
"I really expect my water to be clean," says Abell.
So learning the Palm Beach County Department of Health is concerned about Boca Raton's drinking water doesn't sit well with her. The department is threatening to fine the city if it doesn't get into compliance.
"We've had to issue warnings that say here are the rules, can you fix those and let us know what's going on? They haven't done that on a regular basis," says Tim O'Connor, spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Department of Health.
O'Connor says most of the violations are minor, but one says waste water may be mixing with drinking water in a handful of places. The Florida Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a non-profit group also known as Florida PEER, says it's not only unsafe, it's illegal.
"The illegal connection of potable water lines, which is drinking water lines, with reclaimed water, which is treated waste water is being done in a manner that doesn't ensure the two types of water won't mix," says Jerry Phillips, of Florida PEER.
The Assistant City Manager of Boca Raton, Mike Woika, says that is absolutely not true, and that corrections to the water system are complete. O'Connor says there is no reason for panic, but that changes need to be made.
"It's not like they have a contaminated system. But there is a red flag, a potential for bigger issues," says O'Connor.
Boca Raton has a few weeks to respond to the violations and prove it is complying with state statute. Otherwise, if this ends up in court, the city could face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
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