New Port Richey accepts settlement in lieu of wastewater spill fines

The civil penalties stem from a 300,000-gallon spill at the New Port Richey wastewater treatment plant last month.
Published June 11
Updated June 11

NEW PORT RICHEY — The city will accept a settlement offered by the state in lieu of fines stemming from a 300,000-gallon spill at the New Port Richey wastewater treatment plant last month.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a June 10 letter to New Port Richey City Manager Debbie Manns that the spill on May 4 violated Florida Administrative Code bringing fines of $2,990 in civil penalties and $250 in investigating costs.

The state is offering a settlement to the city in which it can avoid paying the civil penalties by implementing an “in-kind penalty project” such as an environmental enhancement, an environmental restoration or a capital improvement project. Manns said she has agreed to the settlement.

“The city will be performing in-kind improvements at the plant in order to address the amount of the fine,” Manns wrote in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

Prior to the settlement offer, the New Port Richey City Council approved spending significant funds to replace a 20-inch pipe that ruptured on an aeration tank at the facility at 4730 Main Street, west of U.S. 19.

The city discovered the breach at 7 a.m. and stopped the leak at 10:15 a.m., with half the spill remaining on land, according to reports. However, approximately 150,000 gallons of wastewater seeped into Cross Bayou, part of the lower coastal watershed that flows into the Gulf of Mexico, officials said.

Sampling in the area afterward showed no water quality problems, but council agreed last week to plans to get the tank back up and running.

The City Council approved spending $153,797.62 for a new 20-inch pipe, as well as a shut-off valve, which the existing system built in 1988 did not have. Council also approved spending $79,080.00 for engineering services for installation of the new pipe and valve, plus replacing the piping and installing a cut-off valve on another tank system built in 1988. Two other tanks, built several years later, also will be inspected under the engineering contract.

New Port Richey is operator of the plant, but it is partly owned by Pasco County, which uses water from the facility. As part owner, the county is under agreement with the city to pay 40 percent of the construction and engineering costs, New Port Richey Public Works Director Robert Rivera told council.