Thursday, December 7, 2023

Delray Joins National Water Lawsuit and Boca’s Election Ballot Shrinks

Delray Beach has joined a national lawsuit against the makers of toxic chemicals that enter drinking water systems.

The city commission approved the move at its Oct. 25 meeting. Like the litigation against makers and distributors of prescription painkillers, all cases involving polyfluoroalkyl chemicals—known as PFAs—have been consolidated before one federal judge, this time in Charleston, S.C.

PFAs are known as “forever chemicals” because they take so long to break down. They are used in the production of such products as non-stick pans and waterproof jackets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to excessive levels of PFAs can cause cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility and asthma. The 2019 movie “Dark Waters” was about contamination from one of those chemicals.

In 2020, the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility warned about PFA levels in Delray Beach’s water. Mayor Shelly Petrolia and City Commissioner Juli Casale pushed back, accusing the group of exaggerating the danger.

In December of that year, however, the Florida Department of Health ordered the city to test for PFAs every three months and report the results to the state. That notice followed tests showing that the PFAs were at safe levels.

Delray Beach also has addressed the issue in a much larger way, with plans to build a $60 million water plant. City officials hope that money from settlements in the PFA legislation will help to pay for the plant. U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, who represents the city, already secured $11 million for the plant.

Casale is running for re-election against Rob Long. While on the Palm Beach County Soil and Water Conservation District, Long pointed out the PEER report and said the city had not responded forcefully enough. Petrolia and Casale responded by trying to remove Long from the planning and zoning board.

Given the politics, Petrolia and Casale surely were happy to hear the city’s outside counsel on the PFAs lawsuit say, “The city did nothing wrong.” The problem resulted from “bad actors,” meaning the 23 defendants. They include such companies as DuPont and 3M.

That outside counsel, Hank Naughton, said the city will be “in a good position” by entering the lawsuit now. Barring a settlement, a trial would start next June. In September, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel denied a motion by 3M for partial summary judgment.

This year, the Environmental Protection Agency expects to release a national standard for PFA levels. That $11 million for Delray Beach comes from a $1 billion allocation in the congressional infrastructure bill to deal with PFA contamination.

Delray to receive payment for opioid case settlement

Speaking of lawsuits and Delray Beach, the city’s outside counsel in the opioid lawsuit said the first payments from that litigation should be coming in about three weeks. Settlements have been finalized recently in Florida with pharmacies that sold the painkillers. Other opioid-related litigation is pending.

Boca election ballot gets shorter

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

There will be just one race in Boca Raton’s March election.

When qualifying ended last Wednesday, no one had filed to run against Mayor Scott Singer. He thus wins a second and final three-year term without opposition. Singer served on the council for four years before that.

In addition, Francine Nachlas drew no opposition for the Seat A council seat. Andy Thomson resigned from it to make an unsuccessful run for the Florida House. Nachlas will take over in March, or the council could name her to fill the rest of Thomson’s term on an interim basis.

The only contested race will match Christen Ritchey against Marc Wigder to succeed term-limited Andrea O’Rourke in Seat B. Singer already had raised $71,000 through August. Nachlas had raised $77,000. They can return the money to donors on a pro-rated basis after expenses or donate the money to charitable causes.

Developer to make case for Alexan Delray project

At today’s meeting, a developer will ask the Delray Beach City Commission to overrule the planning and zoning board’s denial of a residential project on South Congress Avenue.

Alexan Delray would feature 267 units on the roughly seven-acre site at 1155 South Congress that is home now to only a warehouse. Fifty-four units would be workforce housing. The project requires a zoning change. The agent for the project is Jeff Costello, a former executive director of the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency.

Another seven-figure donation to Boca Regional

Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

The principal owner of the Miami Marlins and his wife have made the latest seven-figure donation to Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s Keeping the Promise capital campaign.

Bruce and Cynthia Sherman’s $1 million gift leaves Boca Regional only about $10 million shy of its $250 million goal. The Shermans also are longtime philanthropists in Southwest Florida. Sherman bought the Marlins in 2017.

Coco Gauff donates gift to Delray Beach

Delray Beach will be receiving a gift from local pro tennis star Coco Gauff. On Nov. 15, the City will unveil Gauff’s 2019 Wimbledon outfit at an event hosted at Delray Beach City Hall. Gauff made Wimbledon history during her 2019 appearance when she became the youngest player to qualify for the tournament’s main draw.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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