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Delray Beach city commissioners push back on water quality claims

WPEC West Palm Beach logo WPEC West Palm Beach 12/2/2020 Jay O’Brien

In a city meeting Tuesday, some Delray Beach City Commissioners strongly pushed back on claims that the city's water is unsafe. 

The concerns come amid continued investigations from the CBS 12 News I-Team and ongoing inquiries from both the Florida Department of Health and the Palm Beach County Office of the Inspector General. 

"We have to do what we need to do in order to make people understand that there’s nothing different that we’re doing with our water," Mayor Shelly Petrolia said during the meeting. 

Delray Beach has been under fire for months over concerns about the quality of water. Some residents told CBS 12 News they were sticking with bottled water. 

The city's now fired and previously embattled City Manager George Gretsas previous raised the alarm about water issues in a July letter. Gretsas was officially fired Nov. 20. City officials told CBS12 News in November that Gretsas was fired because he bullied and intimidated staff. There are also concerns that he violated Florida Open Records law by installing a private server. 

The former city manager told CBS12 News in August that he was fired for bringing the water issue to light. 

Tuesday's meeting also referenced comments made by Rob Long, a member of the city Planning and Zoning Board, who made comments about the city's water. Long wrote an Op-Ed in the Palm Beach Post referring to a study issued by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which found the level of PFAS chemicals in Delray Beach exceeded safe levels. 

READ MORE: Environmental group says there are 'alarming' levels of chemicals in Delray Beach water

PFAS is widely used across the country, but prolonged exposure is potentially linked to some cancers, as well as liver and kidney issues, according to the EPA

"There are thousands of PFAS chemicals that are carcinogenic meaning that they can cause cancer in some individuals and weaken immune systems," Jerry Phillips, the Florida “PEER” Director, told CBS12 News in a November interview. 

The city strongly disagreed with the report, saying PFAS chemicals were within EPA recommended levels. 

"A crisis that was manufactured through a report that was not even addressed with the city water expert," Mayor Petrolia said in Tuesday's meeting. 

Commissioners recommended an improved public relations offensive to communicate with residents that the water is safe. 

"We need to let everybody know that our water is probably the same, if not better, that they’re drinking in the other locations," Deputy Vice Mayor  Shirley Johnson said. 


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