The Westlake City Council discussed its legislative priorities for the upcoming session in Tallahassee that could include home rule issues, affordable housing and water reuse as it relates to COVID-19 at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 11.
“As the legislature is starting to come up, there are a number of issues,” City Manager Kenneth Cassel said. “As always, there is home rule, making sure that the state does not supersede local government’s ability to control planning and zoning.”
Cassel mentioned several items listed on the Florida League of Cities legislative agenda, including the reuse of water in municipal systems.
“Water continues to be a touchy subject,” he said, explaining that he sought input from the council on what they felt were important subjects to pursue at the state level.
Vice Mayor Katrina Long-Robinson said she would want to support affordable housing for future Westlake residents.
“As we’re going back, we can direct staff to look at some of those programs,” Long-Robinson said.
She added that short-term rentals are an issue, explaining that the issue came up last year at Palm Beach County Days of people who buy homes but do not live in them. “That affects the neighborhoods,” she said.
Long-Robinson said there is also concern about COVID-19 as it relates to reusable water and the potential for spreading the virus, although reports from several water reuse organizations have found no evidence that reused water can spread the virus.
Cassel said that Miami-Dade and Broward counties are tracking the possible spread of the virus in water systems. “Wastewater is treated and becomes reused water, so there are some concerns, I’m sure,” he said, adding that there would be closer examination of the water reuse process to be sure the virus is not spread in irrigation systems that employ reused water.
Cassel said that reused water is treated at a higher level than potable water.
“It has gone through the digestion process where it is neutralized. What they then do is treat it higher,” he said. “In most cases, it is treated with chlorine and other products. In a lot of cases, that reused water is cleaner than the water they started with. It cannot be reintroduced to the drinking side of the equation, but it is clean enough and certified for use in irrigation purposes.”
He explained that reused water pipes are colored purple to avoid confusion, and that utility companies are continuing to study reused water for possible contamination. He said he would reach out to the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department, where the city gets its reused water, to see what specific samples they are collecting for study.
Cassel added that the Seminole Improvement District has the ability to add surface water from the M-2 Canal to the reused water it gets from the county during times that the reused water is not available. The surface water is also treated before introducing it to the irrigation system.