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West Palm Beach drinking advisory: Young children, vulnerable don't drink tap water

Toxin produced by blue-green algae detected in drinking water
Posted at 10:37 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-30 12:27:48-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The city of West Palm Beach has issued a drinking water advisory.

"If you pay your water bill to the City of West Palm Beach you are affected."
City of West Palm Beach

According to the city, elevated levels of a toxin produced by cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, have been detected in the raw water samples collected from the East Lobe of Clear Lake and the finished water at the treatment plant that supplies water to West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach.

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.

The City of West Palm Beach information line spokesperson told WPTV NewsChannel 5, "If you pay your water bill to the City of West Palm Beach you are affected."

The following vulnerable populations should not drink the tap water, because they may be vulnerable to the effects of cylindrospermopsin:

  • Infants
  • Young children under the age of six
  • Pregnant women and nursing mothers
  • Pets
  • 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.

The city is taking the following actions to reduce toxin levels;

  • The city has activated its emergency wells to introduce groundwater into the surface water supply
  • Added powdered activated carbon into the treatment system at the water treatment plant
  • Increased free chlorine levels within the final stages of the treatment process, and
  • Will initiate a switch to a stronger disinfectant on May 29 that is identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce levels of the toxin.

The City of West Palm Beach says water customers might notice a slight chlorine taste or odor in their tap water until the advisory is lifted. According to the city, these temporary conditions will not cause adverse health effects.

If you are sensitive to the taste or odor of chlorine, keep an open container of drinking water in your refrigerator for a few hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate.

The city will distribute water bottles to any West Palm Beach, Palm Beach or South Palm Beach resident affected by the drinking water advisory.

Boiling the water will not destroy toxins and may increase the toxin levels, the city said in a release.

Impacted residents may pick up a supply of water from May 29-31, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Gaines Park, 1501 Australian Ave.

Water will be distributed to affected customers on Sunday, May 30, 2021 at the following locations:

  • Gaines Park, 1501 N. Australian Ave. (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
  • Phipps Park, 4715 S. Dixie Hwy. (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
  • Coleman Park, 1116 21st St. (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.)

Residents with questions can call the city's hotline at 561-822-2222, TTY 800-​955-8771.

Future updates will be shared on the city's website.

Read the order from Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County: