West Palm Beach residents left in dark on toxic water advisory


Aid groups distributing bottled water in West Palm Beach say they’re encountering people that are not aware the city is under a water advisory. The advisory is due to toxins, caused by algae, that were discovered in the city’s tap water.

David Rae, with the food distribution group Hospitality Helping Hands, told CBS 12 News he met people Thursday who were not aware of the water advisory. One of Rae’s fellow volunteers, Francky Pierre Paul, confirmed he dropped off water Thursday to people who were unaware about issues with the city’s tap water.

Tests last Friday confirmed the city’s water was contaminated with cylindrospermopsin, a toxin formed by blue-green algae which can be dangerous to young children, pregnant women, people with liver conditions, and pets. The discovery prompted the Department of Health to issue a water advisory late Friday night.

Rae added he was the one telling residents about the advisory when he went to distribute water in West Palm Beach neighborhoods earlier this week, days after the advisory was issued.

“No one that I spoke to was aware of the toxic water situation,” he told CBS 12 News. “I think the word just didn’t get out the right way.”

CBS 12 asked West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James if he believes the city could be doing more to inform residents.

“We will certainly look at that. We’ve used social media, we’ve used the reverse 911. We’re there before you just about every other day, email blasts. We’re certainly open to any suggestions about how we can do a better job of communicating,” he said.

Another official added the city is putting out the message on social media, reaching out through commissioners and other local leaders, and offering messages in more than 50 languages on the city’s website. The same official added the city has a robust offering of resources, particularly for Spanish-speaking residents, some of whom aid workers say were not aware of the advisory.

The city particularly mentioned its newsletter in Spanish.

Meanwhile, Rae and his organization are handing out bottled water daily outside of Subculture Coffee on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. He specifically thanked the West Palm Beach Fire Department, who have been integral in disrupting water at sites across the city.

Story credit:WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12)