Over the last three years or so, issues surrounding water quality have continued to bubble to the surface, especially during election time. This helped to move several individuals into seats on the dais and into a position to do something about it.
Prior to his abrupt choice to resign from council, Councilor Sam Young was seen as a vocal advocate for a more proactive stance by city government regarding water quality. Young resigned in April 2020 after serving only 18 months of a 48-month term.
In the 2020 election, newcomer Rich Blonna was elected. He promised that water quality would be one of his top priorities. Blonna will wade into the subject of water quality as he hosts a workshop open to the public on April 8 to discuss the often-debated subject.
“I see this as an opportunity to speak to the public and share the essential knowledge base regarding the issues relating to water quality,” said Blonna. As part of the two-hour presentation, he will have Public Works Director Tim Pinter and Marco Island Storm Water Engineer Jason Tomassetti give a short presentation related to stormwater impacts.
Also making a presentation will be David Crain and Robert Roth from the city’s Waterways Committee, who will speak on “best practices” as they relate to improving water quality in and around the island. This includes recommendations to expand the stormwater ordinance to ensure new residential construction adheres to those standards.
There also will be time for public comments and questions.
In an effort to protect the waters in and around the island, the Marco City Council moved forward in 2006 to complete the centralized wastewater collection system. One of their avowed goals at the time was to protect waterways and waters around the island. Since then, however, testing has continued to show high levels of contaminants within the waters around the island, despite the $250 million investment in the Septic Tank Replacement Program (STRP). In 2012, the final district in Marco was completed.
Nearby communities such as Naples also have moved forward to protect waterways. In January 2019, the City of Naples voted to eliminate the final 900 septic tanks within the city and an additional number outside the city limits that are served by the Naples utility.
The Marco Island City Council has advanced its efforts to move forward regarding water quality, including identifying sources of existing or potential contamination. Both city staff and advisory boards such as the Waterways Committee are anxiously awaiting a preliminary report from Environmental Research and Design of Belle Isle, FL, sometime early in the Fall. At that time, Dr. Harvey Harper will give the city and its residents some preliminary data on nutrient sources his research is finding from their island collections. The city has increased its testing points as part of the consultant’s overall research being done on water quality.
The workshop scheduled for April 8 will be held in City Council Chambers from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. The goal is to help to educate the public on the issues and help familiarize everyone with the definition of terms they will hear used throughout the report from Environmental Research and Design.