Chris’s Plumbing has WITHDRAWN!
Thanks to citizen activism, Chris’s Plumbing has withdrawn their application for a sewage effluent dump on the banks of the Little Manatee River’s wetlands.
This is a big victory for all of us who worked to defend the little Manatee River from this toxic pollution!
Enjoy your Thanksgiving week, with no public hearing!
(See my previous post for details of how this stinking project would have polluted our river with 100,000 gallons per day of dangerous toxic waste.)
If it wasn’t for the citizens who spoke out against this to our County Commissioners, Chris’s Plumbing’s original plan would be in operation right now — they would be dumping 50,000 gallons per day of raw sewage from septic tanks, porta potties & commercial sludge on the site which includes large wetlands that flow right into the river.
Because of our strong opposition, they were forced to modify their plan to remove the solids before spraying the effluent on the site; doubling the amount, however, to 100,000 gallons per day. They hired an expensive PR firm to try to convince us this would be fine, but we weren’t fooled — it was still dangerous for human health and toxic for the river (see why in previous post) — and we continued the fight.
Why did they withdraw? Several factors may have been considered:
- Despite their best PR efforts, and the dog-and-pony show they trotted out to the neighbors at a little meeting, and the many delays they requested, we did not buy their spin and we did not tire. They knew a big angry crowd was coming to their hearing, and we were loaded for bear.
- The public utilities dept. reviewed this proposal thoroughly, and provided strong negative comments.
- I sent a letter pointing out that the Land Development Code (LDC) has a 6-month limit on how long an applicant can continue delaying their hearing, which means their November 20 hearing date was 5 days past that deadline. Although the county attorney disagreed with me, several attorneys I know did agree with my reading of the code. Chris’s Plumbing’s attorneys may have reasoned that even if they won at the hearing, the results could have been challenged on these procedural grounds afterward.
Chris’s Plumbing can try again, another day.
I hope our fight has convinced them that they cannot win on this site, or on ANY site that would impact wetlands or other sensitive natural resources, and so they should find another site to start with. I hope we have also convinced them that they need to process their waste (somewhere else) in a way that is at least as clean as the county’s own processing plants — or dispose of their waste in the city’s plant.
If they do bring this back, our efforts have won us several advantages:
- We are now organized, so mobilizing again will be much easier.
- As county commissioners responded to our concerns, county staff responded to the commissioners’ concerns — Commissioner Pat Kemp worked especially hard for us. So staff did a lot of work on this, and they’re now are ready to take a hard look at any future plans for sewage disposal .
- EPC determined this to be a “project of heightened public concern,” which means they would notify us of any intent to permit, and hold a public meeting, and take public comment, before their secondary permit is issued. (We’ll have to make sure this applies to any future proposal.)
- EPC changed their comment forms so they will no longer have the “no objection” checkbox which we took issue with. They also provided somewhat better, more detailed comments.
- The media has taken an interest, and has been solidly on our side.
Another big win for us is that the County Commission heard our concerns and has now banned the process of land application of sewage anywhere (except for the 2 or 3 plants currently operating which are grandfathered in). We can thank Commissioner Stacy White for proposing this, and Commissioner Pat Kemp for working really hard on it. This only prohibits spreading solid waste on the ground, like Chris’s Plumbing originally proposed. It does not prohibit effluent spraying, like Chris’s Plumbing finally proposed. Hopefully the county will consider regulating effluent spraying now.
Special thanks to:
- Sophia Ruiz for making, distributing and collecting hundreds of petitions; and for going on TV with her son to publicize the effort.
- Susan McMillan, Marina Welch, Lori Guidabonie, Kent Bailey (and me, Mariella Smith) for going to the County Commission’s public meeting to speak to the Commissioners against this during public comment (which also ended up on TV).
- Gus Muench for letting the TV crews film him at his riverfront home while he told Chris’s Plumbing to “take it somewhere else.”
- Experts who prepared valuable testimony for the hearing, and were ready to testify publicly: Dan Roberts and others (you know who you are — I don’t want to give away your identity in case we need you again!)
- Day Gibson who set up the Facebook event page to keep people informed about the hearing.
- Sam Hamrick for keeping the surrounding neighbors informed and being a liaison between the county & the neighborhood.
- Sierra Club leaders Kent Bailey for speaking to several Democratic clubs about this, and Paul Thibault for spreading the word to Sun City Center groups.
- Karen Michalsk, Sierra Club Conservation Chair Nancy Stevens, Sam Hamrick, and another man (and me, Mariella Smith) for speaking at the public hearing on the Land Development Code Amendment that now bans sewage land application.
- Several groups who rallied their members to speak out: Sierra Club, Sundance Homeowners, Tampa Bay Fishing Club (and Matt Manning!), Cast Away Anglers Fishing Club (and Vicki Franks!), and several other groups.
- Commissioners Pat Kemp & Stacy White for creating an atmosphere where staff understood the importance of this issue, and listened to constituents.
- News media who kept the public informed: Jeff Patterson of News Channel 8 TV, Isabel Rosales of ABC Action News TV, Seán Kinane of WMNF radio, Lois Kindle of the Observer News.
- Every single person who called and emailed the county!
One of my favorite things about being involved in efforts like this is that I get to meet and work with such great people: people who care about our community & our environment, and are willing to work together to protect both. Thanks, again, to all of you!