Environmental groups target Gulfport on its sewage woes
Environmental groups announced their intent late Friday to sue Gulfport over its recent sewage spills.
Suncoast Waterkeeper and other environmental groups announced their intent to file a federal lawsuit against Gulfport, similar to the one they've threatened to lodge against St. Petersburg for massive sewage spills and dumps.
They would do so in federal court alleging violations of the Clean Water Act.
Justin Bloom, Executive Director of Suncoast Waterkeeper said, “Gulfport's sewage woes are emblematic of a region-wide failure to address aging sewage infrastructure and increasing incidents of pollution inundating communities and the coastal waterways that they rely on and enjoy, like Gulfport's beautiful Boca Ciega Bay and Clam Bayou."
The 60-day notice of intent is the first step on the way to federal court. Next, the groups, which also include two other environmental groups, Our Children's Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation, will try to negotiate with the city.
As the release came after 5 p.m., officials in Gulfport weren't able to be reached for comment. Nor were officials in St. Petersburg.
Full release below:
PRESS RELEASE October 28, Tampa Bay ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SEND NOTICE OF IMPENDING LAWSUIT TO GULFPORT FOR SEWAGE DISCHARGES PLAGUING NEIGHBORHOODS AND NEARBY WATERS Suncoast Waterkeeper, Inc. (“SCWK”), Our Children’s Earth Foundation (“OCE”) and Ecological Rights Foundation (“ERF”) have filed another Sixty-Day Notice of Violations of Clean Water Act and Notice of Intent to File Suit for serious and ongoing violations of the federal Clean Water Act (“CWA”) by the City of Gulfport, which has repeatedly sent raw and partially treated sewage into storm drains, streams, neighborhoods, and local waters including Tampa Bay, Clam Bayou, the Boca Ciega Bay Aquatic Preserve, and the Gulf of Mexico. A 60-day notice is the required first step of filing a formal lawsuit in Federal Court. Today’s notice to Gulfport follows a similar notice sent by the same groups to the City of St. Petersburg on September 28. The environmental groups have offered to negotiate with both cities to resolve the sewage crisis which has garnered local, state, national, and international headlines during recent months, especially following the spectacularly large sewage discharges during and after Hurricane Hermine. If no resolution is achieved within the 60-day timeframe, litigation will proceed. According to Gulfport’s own engineering analysis, a significant portion of Gulfport’s collection system has reached or will soon reach the end of its useful life. There are many defects and structural deficiencies that result in excessive infiltration and inflow of storm water and groundwater during wet weather. This excessive infiltration and inflow has caused and will continue to cause repeated sewage spills both in Gulfport and downstream in St. Petersburg’s wastewater collection system. In addition to human waste, sanitary sewage contains various toxic chemicals from the solvents, detergents, cleansers, inks, pesticides, paints, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals discarded by households and businesses. Thus, Gulfport’s sewage spills pose a serious public health risk in exposing members of the public and SCWK, OCE and ERF’s members to sewage-borne pathogens and various toxic pollutants. Justin Bloom, Executive Director of Suncoast Waterkeeper said, “Gulfport's sewage woes are emblematic of a region-wide failure to address aging sewage infrastructure and increasing incidents of pollution inundating communities and the coastal waterways that they rely on and enjoy, like Gulfport's beautiful Boca Ciega Bay and Clam Bayou." “Gulfport’s local waters have been treated with little regard during recent years, despite repeated warning signals including sewage overflows following rain events, and local residents’ calls for infrastructure improvements to protect public health and ecosystem integrity,” said Annie Beaman, a member of all three environmental groups. “Given the long-term failure to address these problems and improve outcomes for surrounding communities, litigation could be critical to ensuring that public interests in water quality and recreation, wildlife habitat, and public health are respected and protected in the future.”