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The city of Delray Beach, Florida, has agreed to settle a federal whistleblower investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration involving a city inspector fired for raising concerns about contamination in the public drinking water supply.
OSHA announced Thursday that the city agreed to pay the former inspector $818,500 for harassing and terminating the worker after he identified and reported faults in the municipal system that allowed reclaimed sewer water to cross-contaminate the city’s drinking water supply.
The Water Utilities Department inspector raised concerns about discovering discolored, sandy and smelly drinking water, after which he was removed from doing inspections and subsequently fired, with the city claiming the termination was due to the worker’s position being eliminated in a reorganization that only involved their job.
Before being fired, the inspector had participated in investigations into the matter by the Florida Department of Health and the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General, according to OSHA.
The worker was fired on Feb. 24, 2022, and the settlement was reached Tuesday.
In a statement, OSHA’s assistant regional administrator in Atlanta, Lily Colon, called the case “deeply troubling,” and said that no worker should be punished for reporting legitimate safety and health concerns.