For Immediate Release: Oct 29, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Venice Epitomizes Florida Water Pollution Crisis
Continued Illegal Discharges Amid Record Gulf Red Tide Outbreaks
Tallahassee — The City of Venice Wastewater Treatment Plant deserves federal pollution prosecution, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Sarasota County facility routinely operates in violation of its discharge permits, but the State of Florida has yet to take any enforcement action, even after state inspections regularly flag violations.
The facility is a major discharger, authorized to pump 3 million gallons of wastewater every day into Curry Creek and Roberts Canal, that are supposed to be clean enough for fish consumption, recreation and healthy fish and wildlife populations. But records show the facility has been in noncompliance for 5 out of the past 12 quarters. In addition, the Venice facility –
- Submits incorrect calculations in its monthly and weekly reports for discharges of both nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients fueling toxic red tide outbreaks. In addition, Venice did not report its annual average for flows on 6 separate reporting cycles and did not report nitrogen or phosphorus results on 3 separate reporting cycles;
- Did not sample and report its discharges of toxic chemicals on multiple occasions; and
- From 2014 to the present had 56 wastewater spills, none of which were caused by a hurricane, but rather occurred due to negligence or degraded infrastructure. In the prior two years, it experienced 42 wastewater spills, with 13 occurring in 2013 alone.
“People wondering about the current red tide emergency might want to see how much pollution is dumped into the Gulf every day,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) enforcement attorney, noting that Sarasota County has collected more than 255 tons of red tide debris just since August 1. “It is as if the Clean Water Act does not apply to the City of Venice.”
PEER is asking for intervention by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because of the chronic non-enforcement by DEP. For example, there have been 7 spills since DEP’s last inspection on March 14, 2018. The most recent overflow occurred on September 7, 2018. Yet, there has been no enforcement taken by the DEP in response to the multiple violations occurring at the facility. The extent of the problem was revealed by a local citizen testing outflow and finding pollution readings off the chart.
“The unfortunate fact is that Venice’s operation of the facility is on a level that is hit or miss as to whether its operation will comply with its permit on any given day,” added Phillips, pointing out that the most recent DEP inspection revealed wholesale failures to properly maintain the facility as well as problems with instrument calibration and failures to properly report effluent discharges. “These pollution violations have been going on for years and the DEP has done very little of what could be called environmental protection.”