Read the full article by Mike Diamond (The Palm Beach Post)

“DELRAY BEACH — Is it safe to drink tap water in Delray Beach? Maybe not, according to a watchdog agency that has released the city’s own test results showing high levels of cancer-causing chemicals.

‘Delray’s drinking water would not be fit for consumption in New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, and a growing number of states,’ said Jerry Phillips, the director of Florida Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER. ‘While it may still be legal in Florida to drink water laced with these chemicals, it is definitely not a good idea.’

PEER is a nonprofit that assists public employees who advocate for strong environmental laws and policies. Its findings come out at a time when the city’s Utilities Department is facing public scrutiny for its management of Delray Beach’s water system. Its issues date at least to December 2018 when homes on the barrier island had their drinking water contaminated with partially treated sewage water.

Hassan Hadjimiry, the city’s utilities director, says Delray Beach tests its water supply at 38 different sites, usually daily, and that he takes all calls to the city voicing concerns about the water supply’s safety.

What’s at issue in PEER’s report is the level of ‘forever chemicals,’ known as PFAS, which never break down in the environment. They are widely used in hundreds of products ranging from nonstick pans to firefighting foam. Besides causing cancer, they also cause motor disorders in children, obesity, and liver and thyroid diseases. They can contaminate water aquifers.

The CDC recognizes that exposure to PFAS may affect the immune system and reduce antibody responses to vaccines. There are more than 9,000 types of PFAS but laboratories only test for the presence of 36. And the EPA guidance only applies to two of them: PFOA and PFOS. 

There is widespread disagreement as to the acceptable level of PFAS. Florida is one of the states that has not set a level. The Environmental Protection Agency has established a combined ‘health advisory level’ of 70 parts per trillion, or PPT, for PFOA and PFOS. The guidance is not legally binding. EPA has been trying to determine for several years whether the number should be lowered and whether it should make compliance mandatory. 

The city’s tests showed a level of 49 PPT. City spokeswoman Gina Carter noted the number is well under the EPA advisory level. She supplied The Palm Beach Post with emails from the state Department of Health and the state Department of Environmental Protection all pointing to the 70 PPT guidance from EPA and saying that no further action is needed…”