Sarasota County faces lawsuit over 800 million gallons of dumped processed wastewater
Several environmental groups are threatening to sue the county for dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of treated wastewater for years, in turn polluting local waterways and jeopardizing the the public’s health, if the jurisdiction fails to clean up its act.
Clean water advocacy groups SunCoast Waterkeeper, Our Children’s Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation gave the county a required 60-day notice on Feb. 20 of its plan to sue unless the county remedies the issues causing the spills. The suit would allege that the county violated the federal Clean Water Act by repeatedly discharging treated wastewater from the Bee Ridge Wastewater Reclamation Facility and for repeated spills of raw and partially treated sewage throughout the county’s collection system and at its treatment plants.
The county has been aware since at least 2013 of the need to increase storage capacity at the Bee Ridge Reclamation Facility, yet it has discharged more than 800 million gallons of reuse water from a storage pond at its utility site at 5550 Lorraine Road, the letter from the groups’ attorney and SunCoast Waterkeeper founder Justin Bloom states. One lengthy episode of spills from a pond on the site that can hold up to 170 million gallons of treated wastewater occurred from December until March, dumping more than 218 million gallons of water over the pond’s brim, said Bloom, citing spill reports from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The reclaimed water is the result of a processing wastewater to the point it can be reused for landscape irrigation. Eight hundred million gallons of water is equivalent to roughly 1,211 Olympic-sized swimming pools, which consist of around 660,200 gallons.
Bloom claims the county has failed to take corrective action to stop the discharges, by expanding its storage capacity or upgrading its facility to an advanced wastewater treatment system — similar to