Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Here's the DEP and City of St. Augustine "Spin"" Leak not hurting marsh DEP officials say the ecosystem is still 'pretty healthy'
Goobers from City of St. Augustine, Florida and State of Florida Kayak in Marsh, Make Unscientific Claims in Two-Part Harmony
Leak not hurting marsh
DEP officials say the ecosystem is still 'pretty healthy'
By KATI BEXLEY
Publication Date: 07/19/08
Marshlands surrounding the city's leaking Waste Water Treatment Plant pipeline aren't that damaged, Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials said Friday.
"It's a pretty healthy ecosystem," said Jim Maher, DEP Environmental Resource Permitting Program Administrator, said of the marshland.
The 1,600-foot treatment plant pipe, located in Lincolnville off Riberia Street, has been leaking into the marsh at least since 2004. The failing pipe was meant to dump treated fresh water into the Intracoastal Waterway, but for years it has instead leaked fresh water into the salt water marsh, where it would sit stagnant. This has caused the area to become a vibrant green compared to the surrounding brown marsh, according to DEP.
Maher and Greg Strong, DEP Northeast District director, kayaked out to the pipeline Friday and said the environment "didn't look that bad."
"I've been doing this job for 20 years, and it didn't seem to be a major threat," Maher said.
But that doesn't mean the city is in the clear from facing Environmental Protection fines, Strong said.
"It's still under review," he said. "We've got some things to go through with that."
City staff put off replacing the pipeline because of cost, and the city manager has said the original estimate was more than $3 million for the project.
Environmental Protection also will take samples from the marsh and investigate more thoroughly what effect the pipeline's effluent has had on it, Maher said. The treated fresh water dumped into the salt water marsh has disrupted the ecosystem, according to DEP.
Recently, St. Augustine City Commissioners voted to spend roughly $1 million to install a new pipeline.
City staff is searching for a company to install the new pipeline.
City staff expects the entire process of putting in the new pipe will take no more than six weeks at a cost of about $1 million.
The money will come from surplus funds in the city's utility budget.
# 1960s -- metal pipeline is constructed
# 2004 -- The year city staff learned the pipe was leaking.
# December 2005 -- Former City Public Works Director Bob Leetch had an engineering study done on the pipe. It shows there are "major problems" with the pipeline. He alerts the Environmental Protection and City Manager Bill Harriss.
# Mid 2006 -- Leetch tells Harriss the pipe needs to be replaced and it would cost $2 million-$3 million. Harriss says that's too much money and says no.
# February 2006 -- The city has an engineering diver inspect the pipeline. It shows there are 120 feet missing from the pipe and several gaps and holes.
# June 2007 -- The city repairs two major breaks in the pipe.
# July 2008 -- The city obtains environmental permits to fix the pipe, but expects to replace it.
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