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The latest is a lawsuit filed by the very vocal environmental groups to overturn the FDEP Wekiva Basin Management Action Plan. They have had a seat and a voice at these round table meetings for more than six years…plenty of time to have their concerns addressed. What’s the beef this time that they need to spend more state taxpayer money on legal battles to force their agenda?

If Sludge Report has readers out there that belong to Sierra Club, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, etc., etc. we don’t mean to offend, but is this really where you want your membership dues going – into the pockets of lawyers????? The money might be better spent on more practical activity, like planting cypress trees along the river. Decades ago, the banks of the Wekiva River were lined with cypress trees, I’m told. If nitrogen is such a huge problem in the Wekiva River, huge enough to trigger lawsuits forcing nitrogen reduction, would it not make more dollar sense to spend the same money replanting the cypress trees? Each tree soaks up at least 10 pounds of nitrogen a year !!! Or, is restoration to its previous glory not the real issue?

In spring, a gathering of environmental groups threw a party at Wekiva State Park. There were signs all over that told members of these groups to demand the federal EPA take charge of reducing nutrients in Florida’s waters. Forcing the EPA to take charge of nutrient reduction in Florida was the result of yet another lawsuit brought by environmental groups under the umbrella name “Earth Justice.” EPA reviewed the state’s Environmental Plan and decided Florida FDEP could handle it. (Click Here to see an update on the Clean Water Act and FDEP Press Release) Florida already was handling it through the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) process and other FDEP initiatives. The groups did not get what they wanted at the federal level, and now, yet another lawsuit has been filed to overturn the Wekiva BMAP plan. They are demanding solutions, ignoring science (or the lack of it), and kicking at a lot of good, boots on the ground work already done by county and municipal representatives to the BMAP working group.

Time and time again, assumptions about whom and what is causing nutrient problems have been proven false. Time and time again, the various proposed and mandated solutions have not provided the expected benefit. And yet, the finger of blame keeps pointing, and costly lawsuits simply cause more chaos for citizen taxpayers, legislators, and municipalities. Some examples:

  • In the Keys, mandated Performance Based Treatment Systems for citizens on septic systems are failing to “perform” or under-performing at an alarming rate. The service requirement of these complex systems is so intense and costly, a bill had to be passed last year allowing homeowners, to purchase parts and service their own systems, instead of using certified contractors who have abandoned service contracts. As we reported six years ago, these are the same systems FL Dept. of Health tried to force on homeowners in the Wekiva Study Area.
  • Professional environmental firms hired to evaluate environmental conditions in the Wekiva Area continuously caution state and local agencies about using the Wekiva Vulnerability Assessment (WVA) and the Dept. of Health Nitrogen Sourcing Study as a basis for action and recommends further scientific and site-specific data gathering before action is taken.
    • A firm seeking a change in landfill status conducted a site-specific, robust study of the geology and ground water surrounding the land-fill. The hydro-geologist reports that the landfill, located in the “primary” Wekiva Study Area is NOT a primary aquifer recharge area as indicated in the WVA.
    • The Dept. of Health, Bureau of On-Site Sewage used the WVA “primary” geographic area to identify septic system owners who would be forced by rule to install performance based systems, simply based on their location and three grab samples, not on any credible site-specific study.
  • 750 Septic systems along the Suwannee River Canals were replaced with municipal sewers. Conversion decision was based on assumed nutrient pollution coming from the septic systems. Later studies conducted by the FL Dept. of Health, Bureau of On-site Sewage show the conversion provided no reduction in nutrient levels and had to admit the problem was NOT the septic systems. These are facts DOH has never released to the general public or to legislators.
  • Orlando Sentinel continuously publishes articles quoting environmental spokesmen who blame septic systems for the algae blooms in the Wekiva River area, but reports nothing about the broken sewer line in Altamonte Springs. The newspaper only reported that citizens’ advisory had been issued warning people they should not swim in the Little Wekiva River. How big was the problem? After the break was discovered, septic pumper trucks loaded 2.5 MILLION GALLONS of raw sewage over five days. No one knows how much was dumped into the Little Wekiva River before the break was discovered. Same under-reporting occurred two years ago in Santa Rosa County, when a sewer line lift station failure dumped 750,000 gallons of sewage into the bayous, and when a municipal plant in Miami dumped 2 million gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay.

After sitting in on many, many meetings, I am aware of a lot of good that has been done in the past by environmental groups. That “good” was not accomplished by lawsuits, but by good people. If anyone should be filing a lawsuit, perhaps it should be the homeowners – for perpetual harassment which has taken the place of sound science and common sense. Should everyone be bunched together in “sustainable” cities and on sewers?