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Multiple Riviera Beach council members unaware investigation into June water contamination completed

People frustrated with lack of answers from city staff and council, who cite ongoing investigation
Posted at 12:14 AM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 00:28:23-05

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — The city of Riviera Beach finished an investigation in September 2023 about water contamination issues in June, according to a records request from the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.

Four city council members said they weren't aware of the investigation and hadn't received the three-page report detailing a "summary of findings" to Utility Director Michael Low.

Riviera Beach Utility Director Michael Low answers questions from WPTV investigative reporter Dave Bohman about the quality of drinking water in the city.
Riviera Beach Utility Director Michael Low answers questions from WPTV investigative reporter Dave Bohman about the quality of drinking water in the city.

The one other council member, Shirley Lanier, and Mayor Ronnie Felder didn't respond to WPTV's request to comment.

People have expressed frustration multiple times about the lack of information surrounding fecal bacteria and E. coli in the city's well water, which Felder said entered the city's drinking water.

Low said the document is not the final report on the incident after WPTV asked why the document wasn't shared with council members. He said the document is just part of the information sent to the state Health Department and related to their ongoing investigation.


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Felder said he's conducting his internal inquiry into the water contamination. The city's internal investigation would become the third one known to the public over the water events in June.

According to the investigation report from the city of Riviera Beach, the investigation started after the Utilities Special District received a warning letter about various violations. Those included failing to issue notices about positive tests for fecal bacteria, collecting water samples within a certain period and failing to submit a bacteriological sample report.

The investigation found the independent laboratory taking tests was only sending information to two city staff members. One of those employees was out of the office for several weeks on medical leave. The other employee, the department's compliance manager, terminated his employment with the Utilities Special District.

The report said the employee was scheduled to remain in his position until June 16 but only showed up to work on June 14. It recommended having the independent laboratory include more than two staff members when returning water quality data analysis.

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The investigation also found the Utilities Special District compliance manager collected identical samples from the same seven sample point locations to verify the validity of a positive test, which came back negative. This led Steven Doyle, who wrote the report, to believe the presence of fecal bacteria and E. coli test was a "false positive" in the report.

"This single incident of a positive event could be considered an anomaly given the history of negative results and the subsequent water quality analysis that followed on the 8th of June, 2023," the report said.

Emails, which WPTV received from a public records request, show the city didn't follow required testing procedures because employees received threats in the past.