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Water-Related News

Sarasota County sued for dumping treated wastewater from overwhelmed facility

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against Sarasota County over alleged violations of federal law for repeatedly dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of treated wastewater for years from one of its water reclamation facilities.

Clean water advocacy groups SunCoast Waterkeeper, Our Children’s Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation filed a suit Monday in the U.S. District Court in Tampa accusing the county of violating the Clean Water Act by discharging more than 800 million gallons of reuse water without a proper permit since 2013 from a storage pond at its Bee Ridge Wastewater Reclamation Facility on Lorraine Road. The suit also alleges the county has illegally dumped raw sewage, partially treated sewage and treated reclaimed water into Phillippi Creek, Cowpen Slough, Whitaker Bayou and other waterways that lead into Sarasota Bay, Roberts Bay, Dona Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, according to court documents.

The discharges “degrade water quality and harm aquatic life in these waters, and thus impair Plaintiffs’ members’ use and enjoyment of the Gulf and Bay waters and other waters adjoining such waters in Sarasota and Manatee County areas,” the suit states.

The groups asked a judge to declare the county has violated the Clean Water Act, stop it from dumping treated wastewater from the facility and impose civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day per violation for violations occurring on or before Nov. 2, 2015, and an additional $54,833 per day per violation for violations that happened on or before the same date, the suit states. The groups are also asking the court to award them costs incurred by the suit, including attorney, witness and consultant fees.