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WPB Water Advisory Lifted, Healing After Gun Violence, And Rise In Migrants Off South Florida Coast

U.S. Coast Guard vessels in Key West, Fla. Most of their resources in Key West are devoted to interdicting Cuban migrants. Cubans are trying to reach the U.S. in larger numbers, concerned that preferential treatment will disappear as the two countries normalize relations.
Melissa Block
U.S. Coast Guard vessels in Key West, Fla. Most of their resources in Key West are devoted to interdicting Cuban migrants. Cubans are trying to reach the U.S. in larger numbers, concerned that preferential treatment will disappear as the two countries normalize relations.

The advisory for West Palm Beach residents to not drink tap water has been lifted.

Palm Beach Post reporter Kimberly Miller said the advisory was rescinded after being in place for a week.

“The health department recommends flushing out your system just by running hot water through the taps for five to 10 minutes and they’re suggesting changing any filtration systems you have including in your refrigerator,” Miller said.

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Cylindrospermopsin is a toxin produced by blue-green algae. It was found in unsafe levels last month, prompting the advisory. The water posed a risk to people younger than six years old, people with liver conditions, people who need dialysis and the elderly.

State health and environmental agencies approved lifting the advisory after water samples from the affected area showed undetectable levels of the toxin.

Seeking Healing After Gun Violence

It was a deadly and violent Memorial Day weekend across Miami-Dade County. Families, neighbors and police hope to quiet the gun violence in the weeks ahead.

Beginning June 4, 17 strike teams will fan out across the county, more police patrols will be on the streets, and law enforcement will pay closer attention to social media in hopes of heading off violence before it spills out in real life.

The efforts are part of "Operation Summer Heat," a 12-week, county-wide initiative meant to curtail violence in the county. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the effort Thursday.

“With our Miami-Dade County police department working alongside our federal, state and our municipal law enforcement agencies we will use every available resource to swiftly bring these criminals to justice,” Levine Cava said.

Operation Summer Heat was unveiled less than a week after shootings occurred across the county over the holiday week. Shots were fired in Wynwood, the Design District and Miami Beach.

A mass shooting in northwest Miami-Dade at El Mula Banquet Hall Sunday killed three people and injured 20 others.

Denise Brown lost her son, Roman Bradley to gun violence in 2012. He was 20 years old.

“I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the [families impacted by recent shootings], there's really no words at this time when you're impacted by this devastation,” said Brown. “But I do want to say, you know, that this will take some time. Your life will never be the same. You can turn your pain into a purpose just doing what you're doing by asking the community to give you time to heal, to give your family privacy and also to come forward if you know anything or you've seen anything.”

Brown turned her pain into purpose by founding the RJT Foundation along with two other mothers who also lost their sons in shootings. The nonprofit organization provides support for families who have lost their children to violence.

Psychologist Dr. Natasha Poulopoulos works for the Holtz Children’s Hospital at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center. She often consults on gun violence survivor cases.

“Initially in the hospital for survivors of gun violence and gunshot wounds, we're being asked to assess for things like acute stress disorder, which is really kind of the precursor the first month after an incident that's traumatic, that starts to look like PTSD symptoms,” Poulopoulos said. “So we're talking about symptoms that are affecting people across the board from an emotional behavior, cognitive, physical and interpersonal level.”

Long-term mental health care for people who’ve suffered from traumatic events, like gun violence, can be an obstacle for people who do not have health insurance.

"I know one place that we often try to look at is community mental health centers. So here at Jackson, we have Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital and we do have psychologists and psychiatrists here that do try to see patients on the outpatient side, but that can really fill up quickly. So it starts to become a problem with insurance,” Poulopoulos said. “I really think there needs to be a stronger push for mental health in our communities.”

Brown said she isn’t sure initiatives like Operation Summer Heat will help to eradicate community gun violence.

“I do agree that funding should go to security cameras and investigations and police cameras, but more so, I believe that we need to put more focus on healing people that are impacted,” Brown said. “It would be nice to have trauma recovery centers, mobile unit healing therapy, counseling — more resources into witness protection so that people who witnessed this type of violent activity will feel more comfortable and safe to come forward and testify.”

“It's going to take a lot, it's going to take resources. And we can't just say we're going to put all of those resources into the police or into investigations. It has to be across the board.”

Influx Of Migrants Trying To Get To Florida By Sea

One group made it to Bill Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne on Monday. Eleven people came ashore in Pompano Beach the same day.

The separate boats carried migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad. They survived the trip.

Last week, a boat carrying 20 people across the Florida Straits toward the Keys sank. 10 were lost at sea. Two others died and eight people were rescued by the Coast Guard.

These are just some of the latest attempts from people hoping to make it to Florida’s shore.

There has been a five-fold increase in the number of Cuban migrants caught by the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs this fiscal year, compared to a year ago.

WLRN’s Americas Editor Tim Padgett said the pandemic has created a desperate economic situation for many of the countries the Coast Guard is intercepting migrants from, especially in Cuba where tourism — the island’s main industry — dropped by about 70%.

“And then when you compound that desperation with the political repression that they're feeling, which often happens when the economy is bad, because that's when the regime feels it needs to put more control socially on things, then you see a lot of people take to the rafts and the same things happening in Haiti,” Padgett said.

The United Nations estimates nearly half of the population in Haiti is going hungry, Padgett said. Violent crime is on the rise in Haiti as well and ransom kidnappings are rampant throughout the country.

“This really distressing cocktail of factors that are driving these migrants to cross the Caribbean to South Florida,” Padgett said.

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Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.