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West Palm Beach's water quality panel comes with costly advice

'You can't put a price tag on clean water,' Mayor Keith James says
City of West Palm Beach Water Treatment Plant
Posted at 12:20 PM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 18:55:09-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — May and June were tough months for West Palm Beach’s Utility Department.

Tests found toxins in the drinking water, and city officials took heat for waiting nine days to warn the public.

And to keep it from happening again, Mayor Keith James put together a panel of water quality experts.

"Our goal, in putting this panel together, was to assemble a dream team if you will, some of the best and brightest in the country, to help us," the mayor told Contact 5.

West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James discusses costs of water quality panel, August 2021
West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James discusses the costs of the city's water quality panel.

There's a cost in assembling a dream team.

Contact 5 obtained contracts of businesses that employ panel members.

Four firms that specialize in water quality design, environmental engineering, environmental law and construction, will receive up to $50,000 each.

A water quality consultant who once worked for the city of West Palm Beach could get up to $35,000.

All told, the city could pay panel members a total of $235,000.

"You can't put a price tag on clean water and the certainty and assurance that we're providing clean water," James said.

West Palm Beach Water Plant
West Palm Beach water plant

The price tag for expert advice comes before the city has spent money on physical improvements to the West Palm Beach water treatment plant and other parts of the city's water distribution system.

The mayor said advice is costly.

"I would say it's a small investment to make sure that our water system [doesn't] repeat this kind of incident," the mayor replied.

Even as the panel makes its first recommendations, the contracts with the city say members could be meeting and making suggestions on improving water quality until July 2022.

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