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West Palm flushing water lines – what that means for Palm Beach

Our Town with William Kelly: West Palm flushing water lines – what that means for Palm Beach

You may notice a slight chlorine taste or odor in your tap water during the next few weeks.

The City of West Palm Beach, which supplies drinking water to customers in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach, is flushing its water distribution lines with chlorine.

City officials announced the chlorine flush in a public notice before starting the process on Tuesday, June 27. It will continue until July 17.

The city says the chlorine flush, which it describes as “temporarily modifying the disinfecting process,” is safe and effective.

“These conditions are temporary and will not cause adverse health effects,” the city said in the notice. “Chlorine is an effective and safe disinfectant providing additional protection against contamination to help ensure your drinking water remains safe.”

The city added, however, that “if you have concerns regarding home dialysis machines, tropical fish or stores/restaurants with fish and shellfish holding tanks, please seek professional advice.”

It also advised anyone who is “especially sensitive to the taste or odor of chlorine” to keep an open container of drinking water in their refrigerator for a few hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate.

On Wednesday, the Palm Beach Civic Association asked a spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County for the department’s opinion regarding the safety of the chlorinated drinking water for people with or without chronic health issues and for the elderly. The spokesman requested that our questions be emailed to the department for review by its environmental specialists. The email was sent on Wednesday. The Civic Association had not received a response from the health department as of Friday afternoon.

Victor G. Carosi, director of utilities for the City of West Palm Beach, said on Thursday that the city’s use of disinfectants is regulated by the health department.

“We do not exceed any regulatory standard,” he wrote in an email.

West Palm Beach relies on surface water that flows 20 miles from Lake Okeechobee through canals and wetlands to Lake Mangonia and East Clear Lake, where it is stored for processing in the city’s water treatment plant on Banyan Boulevard.

Armando Fana, assistant city administrator for West Palm Beach, said it’s important to note that other water treatment systems, including those that rely on groundwater, or aquifers, also use chlorine flushes to treat their water.

Throughout the year, when the chlorine flush is not being applied, the city’s treatment process includes two forms of disinfectants – ultraviolet light and disinfectants that include chloramines, which are a mix of chlorine and ammonia, Carosi said.

Because the city relies on surface water, its water supply tends to have more organic material than a groundwater source. The use of chloramines to disinfect the water can lead to the development of a “biofilm,” he said.

“This biofilm can, if not treated, result in growth of bacteria in the water,” Carosi said. “So, to lessen the potential of biofilm, we annually pause our use of the chloramine and instead use chlorine. The chlorine tends to be a stronger disinfectant, allowing it to interact with any biofilm and actively clear any that may exist in the pipes.”

During the period of chlorine use, city water personnel may operate fire hydrants to accelerate the flow of water in remote parts of the system to flush out any biofilm, he said.

“Maintaining high quality water is a primary goal to our residents and customers,” Carosi said.

For more information, call the West Palm Beach Department of Public Utilities at 561-822-2210.

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