A northern Palm Beach County water supplier is changing its storm protocol after severe lightning and thunder triggered a power failure that caused a boil water notice for two days.
The issue began about 5:30 a.m. Saturday and resulted in a boil water advisory for all Seacoast Utility Authority customers. The advisory was lifted early Monday afternoon.
No water samples indicated there was ever anything wrong with the water, said Chief Operations Officer Brandon Selle.
“We have not found anything that’s concerning in the system,” he said.
The Florida Department of Health required the advisory as a precaution because a power interruption had the potential to shift bacteria levels, Selle said.
The Seacoast water treatment plant on Hood Road has storage tanks with pumps that pressurize the system. The pumps are powered by the Florida Power & Light grid or a generator, if the power fails.
But early Saturday morning, the gear that switches the system to the generator in the event of a power outage malfunctioned. The grid was working, and so was the generator. Both were trying to feed the pump at the same time, Selle said.
That blew the breakers, and the power stopped, just as it does when circuit breakers trip in a house, he explained. The power interruption caused a drop in pressure in the system, and that’s what triggered the precautionary boil water advisory for Seacoast’s more than 50,300 households and businesses in northern Palm Beach County.
Seacoast serves about 65 square miles, including Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, Lake Park, portions of Juno Beach and some unincorporated pockets of Palm Beach County.
In the future, at the onset of a storm, Seacoast will manually switch to generator power instead of allowing the equipment to switch automatically when it detects a power outage, Selle said.
He said the manufacturer will examine the equipment, and the authority changed some settings.
Seacoast Utility Authority workers reset the breakers in a matter of minutes, he said. But by then, the testing requirement had already been triggered.
Seacoast called in staff to gather water samples from 100 locations throughout the service area. There’s an 18-hour processing period for the samples, and the sampling has to be done two days in a row before an all-clear can be given, Selle said.
Customers should not expect to see any discounts on their bills.
“That’s not in our policy, and at no time did we lose water or service of water. It was recommended to be boiled as a precautionary measure,” Selle said.
Some customers reported they did not get a phone call alerting them to the boil water advisory. Seacoast is reminding people to add or update the phone numbers associated with their accounts so that they receive the robocalls.
Selle said Seacoast is looking at other avenues of communication, including text messaging, to get the word out.
“We’re using this opportunity to ensure this doesn’t happen again and look for better ways of making notification,” he said.