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Blue-Green Algae Toxins Found in West Palm Beach, Florida, Drinking Water!

Toxic algae forces closure of Palm Beach County flood control structure

West Palm Beach, Florida, is in the process of removing cylindrospermopsin from its drinking water supply. Cylindrospermopsin, a toxin produced by cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae), was detected in the drinking water from the city of West Palm Beach’s Water Treatment Plant. West Palm Beach is in the process of removing cylindrospermopsin from its drinking water supply after alerting its 120,000 customers May 28, 2021, that it was found in levels above U.S. EPA guidelines. According to the Palm Beach Post, the city activated emergency wells, added powder-activated carbon and increased chlorine-free levels in the treatment process to mitigate the issue. The EPA guideline for this unregulated contaminant is 0.7 ppb and the highest results seen over the last few days is 1.5 ppb and at that level, it is the vulnerable population that needs to take care. Residents in vulnerable populations are urged not to drink tap water and boiling tap water will not destroy the cylindrospermopsin toxins, according to the Florida DOH. Will your water filter take care of removing cylindrospermopsin? There are numerous challenges for the water filtration industry when it comes to emerging contaminants. Largely, there are no ANSI/NSF certifications for equipment to solve these issues. Cyanobacteria are not actually an algae, but rather a freshwater bacteria with no nucleus that thrives in high nutrient environments and the right weather conditions utilizing photosynthesis to reproduce. The algae itself is nontoxic until it dies and the cell wall breaks down releasing the intracellular toxin. The toxins can be particularly harmful in large quantities for humans, animals and pets ingesting, inhaling or through direct skin contact. This is problematic for cities that rely on vulnerable surface water sources for drinking water. Municipalities have guidelines for treating cyanotoxins provided by the EPA. Treatment techniques range from oxidation and coagulation to membranes and the use of PAC (powdered activated carbon) and other carbons. Treatment effectiveness is largely influenced by the concentration of the bacteria and the type and level of toxin it is producing.

The following is Pentair’s recommended procedure for cleaning and start-up of Pentair water treatment systems using Pentair filters and RO membranes for commercial foodservice applications for communities dealing with a boil water advisory.
Obey them, period!
Contamination due to breaks in the mains, general flooding, or damage to the municipal waterworks itself should not be confused with situations in which contamination by protozoan cysts (e.g. Cryptosporidium, Giardia) is discovered in a water supply. Everpure submicron filters and RO membranes are NSF-Certified for removing such cysts, but not for killing or removing dangerous bacteria and viruses, which must be assumed to be present during the aftermath of a disaster, chemical spill or other water emergency.
When a Boil Water Advisory is announced and it is clear that there has been gross contamination, operators should stop using their filtration or RO system and boil their water as advised by their local authorities, until:

  1. The “all clear” is given by local water authorities
  2. Plumbing systems in your facility have been disinfected
  3. Your Pentair system has been cleaned and any old or contaminated filter or RO cartridges have been replaced with new ones
    When safe water is available again, all water-using equipment should be sanitized with an approved disinfectant such as diluted chlorine bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite). The recommended dosage is 100-200 mg/L chlorine, which is easy to make. Fresh bleach has about 50 mg of chlorine in each mL, or about 500 mg in a capful. Four capfuls or an ounce in a 2-1/2 gal. bucket of water makes about 200 mg/L. Add a few drops of cleaning concentrate (e.g. dish detergent) to this solution and use it to clean external surfaces. Unexposed, interior plumbing surfaces can be sanitized in place using a Pentair Everpure JT Sanitizing/Flushing Cartridge. (Contact your local distributor or sales agent to acquire the JT can). This is an empty housing which can be filled with any cleaning or sanitizing solution and then be inserted into Everpure-branded filter heads. When the flow of water resumes, the disinfectant will be fed into the lines. When a strong chlorine smell is evident at the closest outlet, the flow should be stopped and the sanitizing solution left to soak for at least 30 minutes. When sanitization is complete, remove the flushing cartridge and install new, unused filters or membrane cartridges. Rinse the equipment by flushing water through the system as directed in your system’s Installation and Operation manual. Return your filtration or RO system to service.
    Follow the replacement cartridge change-out schedule per your system’s specifications. We suggest that you continue to monitor and follow your local water authority’s post-emergency recommendations. Please note that water problems caused by natural disasters often include high turbidity, even muddy, conditions. As a result, filter cartridges may clog faster and need replacing sooner than usual.
    If you have any questions regarding these instructions or require additional assistance please call us at 1-800-942-7873 or email us at
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