Lake Worth officially opens new water plant

LAKE WORTH — Lake Worth City Commissioner Jo-Ann Golden got a chilly reception when she first suggested the town build its own water treatment plant. "They called me every name in the book," recalled Golden. "They told me it would never happen."

Saturday, it did. Ten years of on-again, off-again wrangling over how best to deliver water in Lake Worth came to a close this morning when Golden and fellow commissioners snipped a ribbon marking the official opening of the Lake Worth Reverse Osmosis Plant.

"This is the future," Golden exulted.

The $24.9 million facility opened quietly in July, and has been producing about 1.5 million gallons of water a day since, well below its current capacity of 4.5 million gallons a day.

The plant draws salty water from the Floridan Aquifer and uses high pressure to press it through a series of filters. About 25 percent of a salty by-product is returned to the ground using deep injection wells, but 75 percent of the resulting water is drinkable.

Development has been a rocky road.

It started in 2001, when the South Florida Water Management District found salt water was migrating toward the city's network of shallow drinking-water wells. The city commission first decided to tap into the Floridan Aquifer, but abandoned the idea in 2007 in favor of buying water from Palm Beach County. In 2009, it decided against that plan, and chose instead to return to its original proposal.

The plant is one of only about 30 such public systems in South Florida.

"It's very forward thinking," said Joanne Davis, a community organizer with 1000 Friends of Florida, the environmental advocacy group. There's another plus, said Davis, a customer of the new water plant: "The water tastes better."