For Immediate Release: Apr 18, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Feds Urged To Tackle Rampant Florida Water Pollution
Lack of State Enforcement vs. City of Lynn Haven Triggers Intervention Petition
Tallahassee — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency needs to address an “imminent and substantial threat to public health” posed by wastewater violations by the City of Lynn Haven, Florida, according to an administrative complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The filing cites a pattern of non-enforcement by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) despite ongoing, blatant violations as the main reason that EPA intervention is required.
Lynn Haven is a city in Bay County north of Panama City. Its wastewater discharge facility has a discharge permit authorizing 2.5 million gallons-per-day (MGD) of effluent into St. Andrews Bay, a waterbody that is supposed to allow for fish consumption, water recreation, and healthy fish and wildlife habitat. The permit also allows land application of an additional 1.0 MGD of wastewater.
Lynn Haven’s facility has habitually exceeded or violated the terms of its permits. For most of the period from the 2nd quarter of 2001 through the 3rd quarter of 2015, the facility has been noncompliant, listed on quarterly noncompliance reports for 37 of 65 quarters, 13 of those quarters were due to effluent violations, including pollution exceedances.
“Lynn Haven is a persistent, prevalent, and profound water polluter,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney. “The concern is a pollution load dumped into St. Andrews Bay in excess of the millions of gallons of effluent per day that Lynn Haven is permitted to discharge.”
The PEER complaint asks EPA to intervene to take enforcement action and bring the Lynn Haven facility back into compliance. Among the other violations, the complaint cites –
- Multiple sanitary sewer overflows in 2016 and 2017. Curiously, the facility registers almost all of these spills as exactly 1,000 gallons, the trigger point for a requirement of health notification;
- Effluent quality was also out of compliance, including fecal coliform violations. Improper meter calibrations masked values of parameters such as chlorine, pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. Nor did the facility file all of its pathogen monitoring reports; and
- In addition to the Bay, Lynn Haven had groundwater exceedances violating permit limits for dissolved solids and fecal coliform.
Despite this long regulatory rap sheet, there is no record of DEP enforcement records dating back to 2012.
“Unless there is some enforcement action taken against significant permit violations, the Clean Water Act will become a complete dead letter in Florida,” added Phillips, noting that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has promised tough action, saying, “We are going to do enforcement, to go after bad actors and go after polluters.” “EPA did not give away its Clean Water Act jurisdiction to Florida, it shared it. EPA policy requires that it step in when national standards are seriously in jeopardy due to state inaction, as is clearly the case here.”