NewsLocal NewsInvestigations


West Palm Beach pushes back, defends response to water crisis

Florida Department of Health says city violated state codes
City of West Palm Beach Water Treatment Plant
Posted at 4:45 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 17:25:35-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — West Palm Beach city leaders are pushing back against the Florida Department of Health in the wake of the city's recent water crisis.

The department of health claimed Tuesday that the city was too slow to warn of tainted tap water.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Protecting Paradise

The state department of health emailed WPTV Contact 5 its administrative code, which reads it has to warn the public, "as soon as possible, but in no case later than 24 hours after the system learns of the violation."

City officials said the reading of the rules depends on exactly what substance is contaminating the drinking water, and you have to look at the fine print for answers.

Environmental lawyer Edward de la Parte
Environmental lawyer Edward de la Parte defends the city for not alerting state health officials sooner about the water issues.

Environmental lawyer Edward de la Parte, who works for West Palm Beach, said state rules force communities to make immediate warnings to the public if specific pollutants like E. coli, nitrates or microbial diseases are in the water.

But de la Parte said that is not the case for cylindrospermosin, the toxin from blue-green algae found in the city's tap water last month.

"This is a novel, new contaminant. There's not a lot of labs that are certified to do this work. And (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) wants to make sure that before you notify the public of a situation that it wasn't a laboratory error," de la Parte said.

De la parte said the city will cooperate with any state investigation. He also it is possible the state may change its rules on surface water pollution as a result of contamination.

Email the Contact 5 Investigators
Share your news tips and story ideas with WPTV's investigations team.