West Palm Beach explains eight-day delay in announcing toxic water supply
West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James defended the city Sunday after it was criticized by Palm Beach Mayor Danielle Moore and others for not informing the public sooner about toxins in its water supply.
The city didn’t notify the public, including town officials, until late Friday that tests done since May 20 showed too much toxicity from blue-green algae.
The city supplies water to 120,000 residents, including its own and those in Palm Beach and South Palm Beach.
During a press conference Sunday, James said the city waited until after it received guidance from the Florida Department of Health.
He said notifying the public earlier “only would have begged the question: What do we do now? The answer to that question comes out of the [Department of Health] advisory. You don’t know from test results which populations are vulnerable. You don’t know from test results whether you should boil water.”
According to an advisory notice issued by the city, the bacteria was initially detected on May 20 from a water sample taken three days earlier.
But the city didn’t issue a health advisory notice until 10 p.m. Friday, warning that vulnerable segments of the population should not drink the water.
The toxin cylindrospermopsin, which can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea as well as liver and kidney damage, was determined to be above a threshold considered harmful for vulnerable populations. Those include pregnant women, nursing mothers, young children, and people receiving dialysis or who have liver conditions. It is also unsafe for pets.
Town Manager Kirk Blouin said the city notified the town of the water advisory at 4:55 p.m. on Friday.
Moore said the town should have been told sooner. “It’s hard to believe they would be so slow in communication,” she said.
In a letter to James on Sunday, Moore expressed “disappointment with the limited and delayed communication about the [cylindrospermopsin] issue with the Town of Palm Beach.”
Moore said Tuesday that James’s explanation for the lag in notification did not change her mind.
“I still believe the City of West Palm Beach should have reached out sooner not only to the Town of Palm Beach but to its own residents about the possibility that there was a water quality issue,” Moore said. “My job is to protect my residents and I can only protect them from things that I know about.”
Local News Updates
West Palm Beach drinking water advisory continues as more tests conducted – WPTV Updated 8:09 AM June 1, 2021
Drinking water advisory continues as more tests conducted – WFLX Updated 9:35 AM June 1, 2021
West Palm Beach defends response to toxic drinking water; it’s unknown when advisory will be lifted – Palm Beach Post Updated 5:17 PM May 30, 2021
West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James responds to advisory delay for toxic algae in water – Palm Beach Post Updated 5:17 PM May 30, 2021
West Palm, Palm Beach, South Palm told not to drink tap water because of algae toxin Palm Beach Daily News Updated 6:17 PM May 29, 2021
Town of Palm Beach Updates
Letter from Mayor Dani Moore to Mayor Keith James on communication of water quality problems – May 30, 2021
Town Advises Not to Consume Water Filtered by Home Filtration Systems – May 30, 2021 12:13 PM
Town Officials have ensured bottle water availability at Palm Beach Publix – May 29, 2021 2:43 PM
City of West Palm Beach Updates
Vulnerable Populations Water Advisory Remains in Effect – May 31, 9:30 AM
Temporary Free Chlorine Water Disinfection for Water Customers Served by City of West Palm Beach Public Utilities – May 29, 2021 12:32 PM