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West Palm Beach awaiting test results on water supply as advisory continues

Mayor 'cautiously optimistic' water situation will be over by week's end
Crews hand out cases of water bottles at Gaines Park in West Palm Beach on June 1, 2021.jpg
Posted at 7:38 AM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 16:24:13-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Officials in West Palm Beach say crews have handed out around 175,000 bottles of water to residents since Saturday after test results detected an elevated toxin level in the city's water supply.

Brent Bloomfield, the assistant chief for the West Palm Beach Fire Department, said the city distributed about 25,000 bottles of water on Tuesday.

The water distribution at Gaines Park, located at 1501 N. Australian Avenue, ended around 12 p.m. and will pick back up again at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

"We don't have a lot of areas like that in the city where we can push that many people through in that given time," Bloomfield said. "So that's why we stick with Gaines Park."

The assistant chief added that the city may look at expanding water distribution to other areas of West Palm Beach.

Mayor Keith James said Tuesday morning that more water samples will be sent to a lab for testing to determine the toxicity level of the city's main water supply.

The results from those test are expected to be available by Thursday. However, it's unclear when the current water advisory will be lifted.

James said he is "cautiously optimistic" the water situation will be over the end of the week.

Palm Beach County drinking water map, green and orange areas bad water serviced by West Palm Beach
This map shows the different utility service areas in Palm Beach County. The green area services West Palm Beach and the orange area services Palm Beach.

Poonam Kalkat, the director of public utilities for West Palm Beach, said the city worked with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to get a plane to fly the water samples to a Florida Department of Environmental Protection lab in Tallahassee.

"There are not too many labs that do this kind of analysis in the state," Kalkat said. "They know they are going to try to do the analysis as quickly as they can."

Kalkat said the city is hoping to get some water sample results by Wednesday at the earliest.

The city intends to send additional samples to Tallahassee on Wednesday. Once the results return showing a decrease of the blue-green algae toxin, the city will work with the Florida Department of Health to begin the process of lifting the advisory.

City officials issued a drinking water advisory late Friday after elevated levels of a toxin produced by cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, were detected in some raw water samples.

"We had not seen this before. It was an unregulated contaminant," Kalkat said. "And we wanted to confirm that this was not an anomaly and something else wasn't going on."

Until further notice, vulnerable populations including the elderly, infants, children under six, pregnant women, nursing moms, and people with kidney or liver disease are urged not to drink tap water or cook with it.

James said anyone not in the vulnerable populations can continue to use tap water.

"We have noticed in the last couple of years that more algal blooms are happening," Kalkat said.

A water advisory hotline has been activated for homebound residents who need water delivered to their home. The number to call is 561-822-2222.

For the latest information on West Palm Beach's drinking water advisory, visit the city's website by clicking here.