A high-ranking Delray Beach, Florida official says he was suspended after he “uncover[ed] gross mismanagement, unethical conduct and violations of law that have jeopardized public safety.” The allegations stem from years-long water contamination problems that allegedly have been making some city residents sick.
City officials dismissed Delray Brach city manager George Gretsas last month with intent to terminate him. The reasons for his suspension, they said, were harassment and bullying. But in a July 31 letter to the city council, Mr. Gretsas says the real reason he was ousted was because of the city’s ongoing water contamination issues.
Mr. Gretsas claims that a private contractor the city hired improperly cross-connected drinking water pipes with pipes that transport partially treated sewer water. Parts of the system also lack backflow prevention valves to stop the reclaimed sewer water from mixing with the barrier island’s drinking water, CBS 12 West Palm Beach reported, citing city inspection reports.
According to CBS 12, Mr. Gretsas says that some Delray Beach residents are unknowingly drinking toilet water.
As a result, the contaminated water is causing some residents of the barrier island to experience stomach aches, diarrhea, and a spectrum of other illnesses. City officials began receiving complaints about the contaminated water in 2018.
More recently, in investigating the water contamination problem, CBS 12 uncovered a copy of a whistleblower report from last year that seems to bolster Mr. Gretsas’ version of the story.
The May 2019 report, submitted by a city inspector, “details a series of problems with the reclaimed water system dating back to 2005,” including the improperly installed pipes and cross-contamination problems, according to CBS 12.
The water contamination issues caused “black slime, sand and grit” to come out of the tap of one of the affected homes, the whistleblower report said.
The whistleblower also said that the Delray Beach Water and Sewer Network Manager was aware of the problems.
“But, the report adds, the last thing the whistleblower heard the manager say on the subject was that if he is required, after his retirement, he would ‘gladly’ return to testify in a criminal investigation,” according to CBS 12.
The City of Delray Beach maintains that the city’s tap water is safe to drink, yet the city continues its work to identify the homes affected by the water contamination problems.
Beasley Allen lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section work to protect people and property from toxic chemicals and environmental pollution that results from negligence and wrongful conduct. Our lawyers are currently investigating water contamination as a result of PFC chemicals. If you have any questions, contact Rhon Jones, Rick Stratton, or Ryan Kral, lawyers in the Section. We often represent state and municipal governments in litigation of this type.