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Why West Palm Beach's water issue is unique

Water distribution 1.jpg

West Palm Beach and Okeechobee’s water utility are the only two in in our viewing area that get their water from a surface plant.

The rest, from Boca Raton to Vero Beach, get their drinking water from the aquifer: water pumped from anywhere 100 feet to 1,000 feet below earth’s surface.

Blue green algae can’t survive underground. (CBS12)

West Palm Beach and Okeechobee’s water utility are the only two in our area that get their water from a surface plant.

The rest, from Boca Raton to Vero Beach, get their drinking water from the aquifer: water pumped from anywhere 100 feet to 1,000 feet below earth’s surface.

Blue-green algae can’t survive underground.

READ MORE: City of West Palm Beach defends waiting 10 days to alert public about toxic water

“Algae is a photosynthetic process. It requires sunlight, increases in temperature, influxes of nutrients and being 100 feet or more underground, you would not have those elements,” said Mark Elsner, a water supply bureau chief for the South Florida Water Management District.

Barry Rosen is an algae expert from Florida Gulf Coast’s Water School. He says algae wouldn’t survive long as it heads to depth.

“How long could blue-green algae even survive once it goes out of the sunlight?” CBS12 News asked

“Well it wouldn’t because it would be filtered out by the sand as water penetrates through the sand and gets into the aquifer," Rosen replied. "The blue-green organisms themselves would be filtered out by the sand.”

The Okeechobee water utility does regular testing. The toxin that was discovered in West Palm Beach was not detected during their most recent test, May 17.

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