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Florida Department of Health issues warning letter to West Palm Beach following recent water advisory

Cylindrospermosin detected in 55 samples since 2016, state health officials say
City of West Palm Beach Water Treatment Plant
Posted at 2:52 PM, Jun 23, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The fallout continues after West Palm Beach issued a water advisory last month that impacted elderly residents and children.

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The advisory was issued May 28 after water test results showed the presence of the toxin cylindrospermosin. It wasn't lifted until almost a week later after samples taken June 1-2 showed toxin levels below health advisory limits.

The timeline of when the public should have notified has been under scrutiny from the Florida Department of Health.

State health officials said the city erred last month when it took nine days to tell them it had dangerous levels of toxins when the department said it should have been notified in 24 hours.

The Florida Department of Health sent a warning letter Tuesday to Poonam Kalkat, West Palm Beach's director of Public Utilities, outlining that the city possibly violated the law when handling the recent water problems and other issues.

The letter states that data provided by the city since August 2016 shows cylindrospermosin was detected in 55 samples collected "at the point of entry into the distribution system."

The letter notes that in most cases the toxin levels were not considered dangerous to the public, however, the city failed to report those detections in accordance with Florida administrative code.

The letter also references a possible violation in the delay of issuing the public water advisory after cylindrospermosin was detected in water samples collected May 17-26.

The Florida Department of Health says the violation of code rules may result in liability for damages and civil penalties.

The letter says that Kalkat has 15 days to contact the department after receiving the warning letter to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter.

A city spokesperson issued the following statement Wednesday regarding the warning letter:

"The city disputes any rule or law violations cited in the Florida Department of Health warning letter," the spokesperson said. "We are in good faith gathering information and are preparing to meet with the DOH to present the city's position within the time frame provided in the letter."

Mayor Keith James previously said the city will use this situation as a learning experience and work to do better to improve the city's water quality, including creating a task force.