Saturday, December 4, 2021

Waterways Committee Takes Up Water Quality

Photos by Steve Stefanides | Waterways Board Member David Crain questioning whether monthly testing will cease if no money is allocated in the 2020-2021 budget.

Boat anchored in Smokehouse Bay.

One of the most contentious and divisive issues which the City of Marco Island has had to deal with since its incorporation in 1998 revolved around the completion of the sanitary sewer system on the island. 

Shortly after its incorporation and a lengthy debate, the City of Marco Island acquired the assets as relates to the water and wastewater systems servicing the island and segments of Isle of Capri and the Marco Shores area just off the island. They purchased those assets from Florida Water Services in 2003. The city floated $101 million in bonds for the acquisition and other related capital funds necessary to do upgrades to the neglected infrastructure. 

Then, 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 around the island. 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 islanddespite the $250 million investment in the STRP (Septic Tank Replacement Program). 

IJanuary 2019, the City of Naples voted to move forward and eliminate the final 900 septic tank users within the city and an additional number outside the city limits but served by the Naples Utility. Marco completed their efforts in 2012, as the final district was completed. 

The City Council has further advanced its efforts to move forward regarding water quality. Both city staff and advisory boards such as the Waterways Committee are anxiously awaiting a preliminary report from  

Environmental Research and Design from Belle Isle, Florida sometime early in the Fall. At that time, Dr. Harper will give the city and its residents some very preliminary data and findings on nutrient sources his research is finding from their collections.  

The city has increased its testing points as part of the consultant’s overall research being done on water quality, however, the Waterways Committee Vice Chair David Crain was adamant about maintaining the monthly testing when the arrangement with the county expires at the end of the year. “I can’t envision this being allowed to happen,” said Crain. 

Another issue the advisory board discussed was how to deal with “fish kills” in canals. Marco, as well as the City of Naples, have had to deal with that issue the last year or so and the committee was in favor of having some resources placed within the budget for the next year. Jason Tomassetti the city’s liaison with the board advised to his knowledge no monies had been allocated for clean-up should another event occur. 

Jason Tomassetti the city’s Storm Water Engineer answering questions at Waterways Meeting.

The most discussed topic of the meeting dealt with marine sanitation and mooring issues. The board discussed what could be done regarding vessels that discharge illegally within the city’s waters. Chairman Rick Woodward reported that he had initially inquired of Chief Frazzano as to the process for reporting such incidents. Chief Frazzano had responded that any such infractions should be immediately reported to Marco P.D. for investigation and disposition. 

The board went on to invite the Chief to its next meeting as they had several inquiries regarding this subject. Those items ranged from the actual procedures required, to time allocated for patrol on the waters, numbers of citations given during the last 12 months and a number of other items. 

Recently, a resident videoed what appeared to be an illegal discharge of fecal matter into Smokehouse Bay in the area adjacent to a vessel that has been moored there during the last six to eight months. The owner has had a number of complaints lodged against him by homeowners in its general vicinity due to numerous infractions. It is unclear whether the vessel is capable of movement under its own power. 

Board member Bill Trotter pointed out that there had been five different contact points identified for these complaints. Fellow board member Robert Roth reiterated the request by Chief Frazzano to have her agency be that point of contact. However, board member Trotter was extremely concerned over the issue of pollution, and whether it was continuing. 

A further discussion was held as to whether a local ordinance could be created that mandated that a liveaboard show proof that a vessel had indeed been legally “pumped out” on a regular basis. “We shouldn’t have to redesign the wheel if another community has a similar ordinance and it works,” said Phillip Thompson, another board member. 

“It really comes down to a question of jurisdiction and fines,” said Trotter. “Everyone seems to be pointing to another agency. 

The board has invited Chief Frazzano to its next board meeting. 


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