Group says Florida's Major Wastewater Violators Go Unpunished

Aug 19, 2014

A recent report from a watchdog group monitoring the state’s environmental regulators found Florida’s major wastewater dischargers-- including three in Southwest Florida-- are violating clean water laws with little enforcement from state officials.

The Florida chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) said many Clean Water Act violations are inciting little or no enforcement action from state and federal officials.

Jerry Phillips, who wrote a new report for PEER, said these major wastewater dischargers include municipal sewage treatment plants and corporate operations.

He said almost 50 facilities, which include two municipal plants in Fort Myers and one in Naples, have not been complying with water standards for more than seven years. Phillips also said records show more than a hundred facilities were listed for violations 11 times in the past 14 years and there’s no record of enforcement action in response.

Phillips said lax wastewater discharge regulations affect the state’s water quality.

“These are exactly the type of discharges that can contribute to algae blooms and this sort of outcome in Florida’s waterways,” he said. “Because they are the type of discharge that algae feed on.”

His report also found regulators penalize dischargers in about half of reported violations.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said its Aug. 7 statement, which said compliance rates across the agency’s regulatory programs are at an all-time high of 96 percent, still stands.