November 23, 2010
PURRE has been alarmed about Lee County leadership turning a blind eye to incorporated municipalities within the county blatantly violating laws and fouling the Caloosahatchee and its estuary. It’s not just Lee County leaders, but federal and state leaders as well.
It is PURRE’s firm belief that the Lee County Board of County Commissioners has the responsibility to police the river and as our elected commissioners, should protect the resources of the county, thereby protecting the people of the county. When other agencies don’t step up and enforce the laws that it is their jurisdiction to enforce, the BOCC must step in and force violating municipalities to comply with the law. The river runs through all of Lee County; it does not stop and go around the cities of Ft. Myers or Cape Coral.
This issue was illustrated in a sad and dramatic way this week when NBC-2 reporter Andy Pierrotti ran a story about his investigation into the City of Ft. Myers wastewater treatment plant and its long history of dumping toxins into the Caloosahatchee.
Briefly, using the databases of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andy discovered that the City of Ft. Myers had more fines levied against it than any other locality – more than $95,000 over the past five years. Because the Department of Environmental Protection is the enforcement agency of the EPA’s standards, Andy turned to the DEP.
There he learned that the city was putting water into the Caloosahatchee containing "cooling byproducts" from the treatment plant that contain toxins that can kill marine life and that at extremely high levels can cause cancer and liver damage in humans.
Andy learned that the DEP knew this was going on five years ago but let the city continue to violate the Clean Water Act rules because its wastewater treatment plant's infrastructure was not designed to prevent it. The city could pay $3 million for an ultraviolet light system (UVA) to kill the toxins, but that has not been done – but they continue to pay the fines and have applied for "mixing zones," which basically are permits to break the Clean Water Act and continue these discharges.
Andy spoke to PURRE Water Coalition Chairman Mike Valiquette as part of his investigation. Mike has already written to Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah on this matter and is awaiting his response, and has also written a letter to the editor of the Ft. Myers News-Press.
You can watch Andy’s report here: