WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Officials with the city of West Palm Beach said a water advisory issued last week for vulnerable members of the population will continue, but the latest samples offer encouraging news.
West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James and Public Utilities Director Dr. Poonam Kalkat made the announcement during a news conference at city hall.
James said Thursday that water tests taken on June 1 and 2 had cylindrospermopsin levels below the .7 micrograms per liter approved by the EPA.
Because of these samples, James said the city is closer to lifting the advisory and called it "promising news," but said the city was "not officially out of the woods."
"We were told that once we produced two consecutive days of clean samples that the advisory would be lifted," James said. "However, they have seemed to have moved the goalposts on us. ... DEP is currently reviewing some additional data from the past few days."
The mayor said they are working with the appropriate regulatory agencies in reviewing additional data before giving an "all clear" to lift the advisory.
"I was hoping to have much better news. ... I am optimistic, cautiously optimistic, that [the advisory will be lifted] soon," James said.
The water advisory was issued Friday night after cylindrospermopsin, a toxin produced by blue-green algae, was detected in the water system.
James was critical of a recent Palm Beach Post story that said he knew about the toxins in the water for more than 10 days but withheld the information from the public.
"That, my friends, is nothing less than a bold-faced lie," James said
He was animate that he discovered the water problems on May 28, the same day that the advisory was issued.
The mayor defended the decision of the public utility department to wait nine days before issuing the advisory.
"I believe, and know, that our public utilities department responded appropriately in this manner based upon all applicable EPA guidelines," James said.
Kalkat defended her decision not to notify the mayor when high levels of the toxin were first discovered May 19, calling the situation "unchartered territory."
James said they are going to convene a panel of experts to review the city's practices concerning algal blooms to protect the city's water supply.
As of Wednesday, the mayor said the city had distributed 280,000 bottles of water to the public in five days.
In the meantime, the following vulnerable members of the population should not drink the tap water because they may be vulnerable to the effects of cylindrospermopsin:
- Young children under the age of six
- Pregnant women and nursing mothers
- Those with pre-existing liver conditions
- Those receiving dialysis treatment, and
- As a precautionary measure, the elderly and other sensitive populations should consider following these advisory instructions.
According to the city, all other individuals not considered to be vulnerable may drink the water and cook with it.
Tap water can be used for showering, bathing, washing hands, dishes, flushing toilets, cleaning and doing laundry.