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Riviera Beach public notice says utility district 'disseminated false or misleading information'

New report sheds light following January announcement that fecal bacteria was found in city well 7 months earlier
Posted at 5:42 PM, May 10, 2024

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — WPTV is learning more about the condition of the drinking water system in Riviera Beach.

The utility has faced questions from NewsChannel 5 and members of the community since announcing in January that fecal bacteria was found in a city well, seven months after the fact.

A newly published report sheds light on what happened behind the scenes following that January announcement in what it calls an effort to be transparent and comply with the law.

Riviera Beach published an assessment of its water system.

The assessment was conducted by an independent consultant, which looked into two things: a fecal positive test on June 6 at a sampling site and the positive well test from later in June.

Read the public notice below:

WPTV has reported through health department records that the city called the June 6 test a "false positive."

The consultant looked into how the city arrived at those results and what had been done to avoid similar results in the future.

The city also published a notice regarding its failures to let the public and the health department know about the positive tests in a timely manner.

The only test the public learned about from the city itself was the well test.

Read the assessment below:

Again, that happened in June but no one was notified until January. At which point, the utility director Michael Low spoke with WPTV investigative reporter Dave Bohman. He told Bohman he wasn't obligated to issue any sort of notice.

The notice published by the city Friday said the utility "disseminated false or misleading information ... that diminished the importance of that public notice" — the same day that Bohman did that interview.

Friday's report also stated that while aggressive steps were taken to remove the well from service, inspect for sanitary defects and take corrective issues, the Riviera Beach Utility Special District failed to comply with the following requirements:

  • Notifying the Florida Department of Health within 24 hours of initially becoming aware of TC+ and taking action to issue public notification based on guidance received
  • Collecting clearance samples within the required 24-hour period

WPTV spoke to residents Friday about what they thought about the report.
Marvelous Washington, who lives in Riviera Beach, has attended multiple city meetings about the water.

"The lack of transparency, the dishonesty, my opinion about how they handled the situation has not changed," Washington said.

Geniel Joseph, a resident of Riviera Beach, speaks to WPTV reporter Joel Lopez after a new report was released by the city concerning water quality.
Geniel Joseph, a resident of Riviera Beach, speaks to WPTV reporter Joel Lopez after a new report was released by the city concerning water quality.

Geniel Joseph also lives in Riviera Beach.

"What was your reaction knowing that there was fecal matter in the water?" WPTV reporter Joel Lopez asked Joseph.

"I was actually stunned," Joseph said. "I saw it on the news. I didn't hear about it from the city itself."

"How do you feel that the city handled the situation?" asked Lopez.

"Disappointed to say the least, it's kind of difficult to trust the water you're consuming every day since that incident," Joseph said.

WPTV asked the city the following questions Friday and received the following responses:

Q: What is next in this process? 
A: The DOH will issue a Consent Order.

Q: As part of the EPA inspection process the utility district was required to submit a new sampling plan, where in the process does that plan stand, is it complete, if not what's needed to complete it? 
A: The plan is complete with the final field verification underway.

Q: What is the UD doing to prevent these deficiencies in the future? 
A: The Compliance team are performing internal audits of procedures and equipment and revising and retraining the team on the appropriate policies. 

Q: What's been the biggest learning experience since June? 
A: The necessity of ensuring personnel follow established procedure.

Read the impacted area:

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