Suncoast Waterkeeper, Our Children’s Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation Send Notice of Clean Water Act Violations to St. Petersburg for Sewage Discharges
September 29, Tampa Bay
On Wednesday, Sept. 28, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Inc. (“SCWK”), Our Children’s Earth Foundation (“OCE”) and Ecological Rights Foundation (“ERF”), filed their 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”) at the City of St. Petersburg’s publicly owned treatment works. A 60-day notice is the required first step of filing a formal lawsuit in Federal Court.
St. Petersburg’s recent extraordinarily large sewage discharges to Tampa Bay have caused serious human health risks and environmental damage. The needed infrastructure improvements are urgent, the ecological impacts will take a long time to heal, as will the damage to the public’s confidence, shaken by the city’s failure to notify and warn the public of these spills. The systemic improvements required to address these shortcomings are significant and will benefit from citizen participation and oversight.
St. Petersburg has acknowledged failures and pledged to address needed sewage system improvements, which is a positive and welcome step, but St. Pete does not have a good record of addressing the root causes of the ongoing sewage system problems. Citizen suit enforcement is needed because the legal system functions differently, and in many cases more efficiently, than the political system. The environmental groups involved in this action have many years of experience addressing sewage system problems, and we will use our expertise to help concerned citizens get enforceable, long-term solutions while also ensuring public oversight and participation. In addition to pursuing long-overdue maintenance and upgrades to the sewage system, we want the city to fund environmental mitigation projects to offset some of the damage done by the discharges and we want residents to have a hand in ensuring these projects are well designed, meet community needs, and are implemented.
Justin Bloom, Executive Director of Suncoast Waterkeeper said, “Sewage contamination is a problem throughout the Suncoast, but pollution from St. Petersburg is particularly acute. Hence, we are focusing first on St. Pete, but hope to stimulate improvements throughout the region.”
Annie Beaman, a member of all three organizations noted, "Spending the last few days watching dead fish wash up on local shores reminds me of the ocean's fragility. The current red tide might have started as a natural phenomenon, but the spate of huge sewage spills has certainly worsened the risks of a prolonged fish-killing event. Massive sewage discharges fuel local waters with nutrients which can feed red tide algae."
"The public owes a big debt to Craven Askew, who risked his job to bring the City's neglect of its sewage system to light. His courage is an example to us all," said Fred Evenson, an attorney for the organizations.
Tiffany Schauer, founder and Executive Director of OCE noted that: "The people, wildlife, estuaries, and businesses that are impacted by ongoing sewage discharges from St. Petersburg cannot afford to wait for possible political solutions after so many years of inaction and delay. OCE has a strong track record of achieving enforceable results for areas blighted by sewage system problems by enforcing the Clean Water Act and navigating the legal system on behalf of citizens. Our goal is to achieve long-term, enforceable, sustainable solutions to St. Pete's egregious sewage pollution issues."
For more information, please contact:
Justin Bloom, Suncoast Waterkeeper
(941) 275-2922, firstname.lastname@example.org
Annie Beaman, Our Children’s Earth Foundation
(510) 910-4535, email@example.com