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STINKY PROPOSAL: West Boca Raton HOA Boards To Vote On Filling Lakes With Reclaimed Water

by | May 29, 2022 | Boca News | 0 comments

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STINKY PROPOSAL: West Boca Raton HOA Boards To Vote On Filling Lakes With Reclaimed Water

Which West Boca Raton Communities Are Planning On Buying Broward County’s Treated Wastewater?

Stinky Proposal: West Boca Hoas To Vote On Filling Lakes With Reclaimed Water Which West Boca Raton Hoas Are Planning On Buying Broward County'S Treated Wastewater?

Stinky Proposal: West Boca Raton Hoa Boards To Vote On Filling Lakes With Reclaimed Water

BOCA RATON, FL – Boca Post (BocaPost.com) — Several West Boca Raton HOAs have been approached by the South County Reclaimed Water Partnership with a proposal for communities to buy reclaimed water from Broward County to irrigate lawns in the communities.

In 2016, The Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners approved an agreement that established the Regional Reclaimed Water System, a joint agency consisting of Broward County, Palm Beach County, and South Florida Water Management District.

The Regional Reclaimed Water System will be responsible for bringing Broward County’s reclaimed water to customers in Palm Beach County. The regional approach was conceptualized because of areas like West Boca that are too far from Palm Beach County’s source of reclaimed water, the Southern Region Water Reclamation Facility (SRWRF).

So Palm Beach and Broward County partnered up to deliver reclaimed water from Broward County’s North Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant (NRWWTP) to large users in southern Palm Beach County. While the project generally describes these large customers as golf courses, several HOAs are also being targetted as new customers of Broward’s reclaimed water.

Palm Beach County like the proposal because there is no initial infrastructure cost to them. Broward County is footing the bill to build the infrastructure. Broward county likes the plan because they get to get rid of their reclaimed water. A lot of it, actually. According to the project plan, Palm Beach County will accept a minimum of 10.6MGD (million gallons per day). That means less water to be pumped into the Aquifer and less ocean outfall which is slated to be eliminated by 2025.

What exactly is reclaimed water?

So what exactly is reclaimed water? While there are different types of water, all water fits into two categories: potable (drinkable), and non-potable (not safe for consumption). Reclaimed, or recycled water is placed into the non-potable category. Reclaimed water is essentially cleaned, or treated wastewater. While the process of treating wastewater is considered to be a rigorous process following strict standards, reclaimed water cannot be considered safe for human consumption.

How is wastewater treated? Different areas have different processes, but the processes here in Palm Beach and Broward Counties are the same. First, sewage is manipulated to separate water from larger particles (yes, that). That water is then transferred to tanks and treated with chemicals so that sludge settles at the bottom and the ‘scum’ floats to the top. This process is repeated and then the water is filtered to remove any leftover solids (yes, again). Chlorine, the same chemical used by many Boca Raton pool cleaning companies, is then used to disinfect the water.

As reclaimed water is processed, the salt level increases. The final stage of the process includes removing salt from the reclaimed water.

The water is now considered safe for reclaim and it goes to one of two places. It is either sent down 1000s of feet into Florida’s underground aquifer or, it is piped into the reclaim water system where it will feed thirsty golf courses among other uses. Florida’s water reuse program is putting more and more demand on golf courses, HOAs, commercial entities, and public entities to make better use of reclaimed water.

South Florida Water Management District supports the project as well. When the project was kicked off SFWMD said that the project will eliminate over 20MGD of groundwater irrigation.

How does this affect West Boca Raton?

Back to the topic at hand. This reclaimed water is ready for use. Broward has a lot of it and they are piping it into Palm Beach County to sell it to entities that would benefit from using reclaimed water versus potable water. They want to pump this water into the lakes in and around certain West Boca Raton communities including Boca Winds.

The proposal that was presented to the local HOAs is that each community will have a single pipe, or “spur” as well as a master meter. From there, it will discharge the treated effluent directly into a single lake which will then rely on water-table hydrolysis to spread the water throughout the interconnected lake system.

Irrigating with reclaimed water has become a very popular water conservation mechanism. The EPA says that more than half of the outdoor water consumed in the United States is used to water lawns. Landscape irrigation is responsible for 9 billion gallons of water a day.

Watering with reclaimed water is not without risk. While the nitrogen and phosphorus levels of reclaimed are high, which is good for fertilizing lawns, some ask, what is the impact on the environment?

As mentioned earlier, the salt level increases as water is reclaimed and treated. While the treatment process tries to pull all of the salt out, experts admit that some salt is left in the reclaimed water. What are the impacts of salt? In the case of the West Boca Raton homeowners who will then be pumping water from the lake onto their lawns, will the salt damage their equipment or property?

Experts also warn that the number of chemicals in the pipeline may vary and that levels will certainly be stronger in the morning when water systems are “shocked” to disinfect the reclaimed water lines. What guarantee do homeowners in Boca Winds or other West Boca Raton communities have that these chemicals won’t make it into the lakes?

Many homeowners say that filling the lakes with reclaimed water will do more harm than good. Homeowners currently water their lawns with water from the lakes that are filled with rainwater. A process that they say has been working well for the last 30 years. Homeowners are concerned about flooding conditions. The lakes that would normally act as a buffer to protect their homes during a flood event could now contain treated wastewater that would actually pose a threat to them because of the new increased water levels.

West Boca Raton homeowners are concerned community HOA boards aren’t considering potential consequences

Many homeowners from Boca Winds, Boca Falls, Ashley Park, and the Loggers Run communities seem to be relatively uninformed about this proposal. Some are very vocal about their opposition to the reclaimed water initiative affecting their neighborhoods.

The more vocal residents who oppose the proposal are voicing their concerns on Social Media, writing letters to their respective HOA board members, and signing a petition on change.org. The petition on Change.org lists the following points as key opposition to the proposal:

  1. Reclaimed water is not safe for human consumption. Reclaimed water can pollute our drinking water by contaminating places where reclaimed water can enter our drinking water system through cross-connections.
  2. Reclaimed water should NOT be used anywhere near our homes, backyards, pools, patios, lawns, playgrounds, parks, schools, etc. Skin contact with our children, pets, ourselves, and breathing airborne bacteria and chemicals from reclaimed water must be banned from our community.
  3. Reclaimed water will pollute our air with a foul smell.
  4. Reclaimed water used in our community will reduce the property values of our homes.

At the time of this writing, the following comments were left on the change.org petition:

  • “I saw there could be PFAS in the water that can easily transfer to the soil therefore I am NOT interested in having this reclaimed waste water in my backyard.” -Heather Kayne
  • “I’m signing because this is simply disgusting and I do not comprehend how it can even be allowed.” -Olivia Nachmany
  • “I am extremely upset and concerned about the contaminated water being directed at us for NO REASON. Our SAFETY of Ourselves, our two children, our dogs, and even the “Natural animals” living here alongside us are in dire jeopardy. This CANNOT be allowed to happen.” -Nivia Lucero
  • “I’m signing because this is simply disgusting and I do not comprehend how it can even be allowed.” -Olivia Nachmany
  • “I currently live in Boca Falls and this will negatively impact our community” -Julia Mezbizer
  • “I live in Boca winds, Ashley Park and I do not want recycled water in our water system from Broward county” -Nicole Boucher
  • “We DO NOT want this in our community!!!” -Ann Van Wagner
  • “I’m signing because is too danger for us. We don’t need more garbage in our waters.” -Grace Yeyati

The comments go on, and on. You get the point.

On Facebook, the resistance is very much alive. A user close to the situation is sharing the following message in a private Facebook group:

Reposted from my post just placed at Boca Falls Residents Page Facebook page:
Our Community, Family Health, and Property Values are in REAL POTENTIAL DANGER
ACTION Must Be Taken WITHOUT DELAY to Protect Us and our Property
    1. As addressed in recent posts, there is a proposal that Boca Falls and neighboring lake communities accept what will in effect be pollution of our lake water with what is called reclaimed wastewater piped north from Broward County. In addition to what is shown in chat activity on this page, these two additional Facebook Group pages provide evolving chat activity information:
    • Boca Winds Community Share
    • Reclaimed Water Opposition: Boca Winds/Boca Falls/Loggers Run (This page was set up to just focus on the reclaimed water issue and to create a petition with over 400 signatures currently)
2. This is the time for overwhelming resident owner ACTION. Resident/homeowners must not sit back and wait/hope for the Boca Falls or other Boards to protect the community from the wastewater proposal, or for “someone else” to take the needed action. Stand up and be counted in this Facebook Group!
3. It is essential to press the HOA boards to send out an email notice to all residents without further delay explaining the essential details of the issue and notifying them of the pending vote. There has been no explanation of the details of this wastewater issue sent out to all homeowners by the Boca Falls HOA or apparently not by the Boca Winds HOA – so surely MANY residents/homeowners are not aware of the full extent of what is going on. When the overdue notification goes out, there should be much more resident/homeowner concern and hopefully much stronger and widespread involvement.
4. A five-person Master Board with membership from the Boca Falls (2 members), Boca Winds (2 members), and Ashley Park (1 member) HOA Boards will be voting yes or no to accept the wastewater pollution proposal. This vote could be as soon as the Master Board’s next meeting on June 15 [So, TIME is VERY MUCH of the ESSENCE]. Even though the Master Board is separate from the Boca Falls HOA Board, the Master Board has two Boca Falls HOA members, and the Boca Falls HOA has an obligation to inform and assist the residents/owners to block the wastewater proposal.
5. Since the Master Board vote could be imminent, legal action (possibly an injunction) could enable buying time to get better organized and more assured that the wastewater proposal is denied. At this point, there is NO ASSURANCE of a denial vote from any of the Master Board members.
It is worth noting that there is a Master Association meeting scheduled for June 15th. This meeting will determine the outcome for about 1,700 homeowners in the area including those who live in Boca Falls, Boca Winds, and Ashley Park.
Boca Post will continue to monitor the conversations around this issue and update our readers on any developments.

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