GULFPORT — The Clam Bayou lawsuit has been delayed once again, but this delay may end up bringing it closer to a resolution.
Defendants in the suit filed by Al and Cindy Davis — whose Gulfport home backs up to the bayou — have been granted an extension to Sept. 14 to respond to charges that they are responsible for the contamination of the estuary.
The responses, originally due this week, are now due in mid September, said Robyn Felix, media relations manager for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, one of the defendants in the suit. Other defendants are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the city of St. Petersburg. Also named are Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, and A. Stanley Meiburg, acting regional administrator for USEPA Region 4.
The request for extension asked for more time for the defendants to come up with possible alternatives to continuing the litigation.
Tom Reese, attorney for the Davises, said he expects they will make an offer to settle.
Would it be monetary?
No, Reese said. It would have to include some dredging of the bayou and assurances that the government agencies would better monitor the runoff that is coming into the estuary.
"We need to know what is going on during a rain event — how much stormwater is coming in and how the salinity is changing," Reese said.
As far as the dredging, Reese said the bayou has essentially been acting as a retention pond for stormwater runoff.
Ponds built for that purpose have to be periodically dredged to collect the contaminants that wash in with the rainwater. The bayou needs to be dredged and the collected sediment dumped as waste, he said.