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Water-Related News

City of Venice wants Sarasota County to monitor Gulf for pollution, too

A simple requirement for the Venice City Council to sign off on a joint county stormwater monitoring permit turned into a lengthy discussion this week.

City leaders, in search of meaningful ways to limit pollution into local waterways, drilled city staff Tuesday morning when the permit came before them.

Their primary concern: why does the permit only monitor creeks and rivers, and not the outfalls that release stormwater into the Gulf? And why isn’t the county doing anything about it?

The Department of Environmental Protection permit is issued every five years to monitor the waterways. Tuesday’s presentation was an annual update.

It got Mayor John Holic thinking, which waterways are being tested that actually originate in Venice? And who’s monitoring the other water sources?

“Where is the actual source of the water coming in? We have Hatchet Creek and Curry Creek, and neither start in the City of Venice,” he said.

“This scares me,” Holic said. “If it’s garbage in, it’s going to be garbage out and you know who will get blamed (us)?”

“We’re already paying county taxes to have it monitored. Now, we have to pay our city taxes to monitor the water that doesn’t even originate in the city?” Holic asked.

Council Member Bob Daniels said he didn’t want to support the program at all unless the county provides understandable data and analysis as to what it’s doing to reduce pollution surrounding the city.

City Public Works Director James Clinch noted it’s a required program the city has participated in for at least 15 years. If the city doesn’t participate in the stormwater permit process with the county, it will have to pay for its own monitoring, he said.

The Clean Water Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency and states to regulate point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program.

Clinch acknowledged the joint stormwater permit only meets the bare NPDES’s minimum compliance. The city is already preparing to do extra monitoring.

“There are economies of scale” in the joint permit effort, “and it has to be done,” said Council Member Rich Cautero. “Based on the heightened awareness on water quality, why is it the county hasn’t expanded its monitoring to the Gulf? Why is that not in the scope of the project going forward based on recent events?” he asked.

“We need to have better discussion about how to preserve our environment,” said Council Member Fred Fraize.