SENT VIA E-MAIL: December 4th, 2018
December 3rd, 2018
Mayor John Dailey and City Commissioners, and
Mr. Reese Goad, City Manager
300 S. Adams St., Tallahassee, FL 32301
Dear Sirs and Madam:
The Buck Lake Alliance and the greater Buck Lake community, as well as other Tallahassee neighborhood communities, are concerned about the amount of stormwater runoff and the frequency of sewage spills impacting the Lake Lafayette basin and, subsequently, the Florida Aquifer where many of us get our drinking water. It is also known that the Upper Lake Lafayette sink provides water to Wakulla Springs. We continue to be concerned as the problem continues.
Over recent years, a number of raw sewage spills have occurred due to failure of infrastructure and the lack of control in heavy rainfalls during summer and spring storms. For example, in May 2014 the Weems Road transfer station failed and spilled well over 400,000 gallons of raw sewage into Weems Pond and downstream to Upper Lake Lafayette. Fish kills from this spill are shown below.
With that said, we acknowledge the hard work the City has done to reduce the number of discharges over the past number of years. For example, we understand the Weems Pond alum injection system has helped to reduce the number of fish kills. Congratulations. However, while the number of discharges has been reduced, the amount per discharge has not.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Projection, there have been numerous discharges of raw sewage into Tallahassee area lake basins. For example, on November 9, 2018, 100,000 gallons of raw sewage were discharged into Holly Pond on Summerbrooke Drive. During the October hurricane a similar discharge occurred, preceded in August 2018 by an infrastructure blowout in the Killearn Lakes area. In September 2016, the DEP reported a sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) of 1,625,000 gallons discharged into Lake Munson. As you likely know, the City is currently under a 2009 Consent Order acknowledging the past and recent sewage spills of approximately 9 million gallons. The DEP has reported earlier sewage discharges between 2006 – 2008:
Irrespective of the cause, raw sewage is being discharged to surface water in Lake Lafayette Drainage Basin! There are a number of sink holes across Upper Lake Lafayette lake bottom, with an active sink hole draining into the Florida Aquifer. The Tallahassee area has been discussing this issue for quite some time.
(Complete Democrat article: Development debates reflect concern for water quality: April 2000—Ann Morrow; inserted below)
We are getting the sewage discharge data, but are we getting the message?
Sewage spills greatly increase the potential for the presence of pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms. Sewage may also contain nutrients, solids, intestinal worms and worm-like parasites, oils and grease, runoff from streets, parking lots and roofs, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and many toxic chemicals including PCBs, PAHs, dioxins, pesticides, phenols and chlorinated organics. The City too often responds to spills by asserting that “the solution to pollution is dilution.” But dilution is not the answer to rainfall runoff, which also accumulates the same contaminants found in raw sewage. Consequently, contaminants accumulating on the bottom of water bodies can enter the food web.
Another problem is that sewage spill reports fail to mention potential detrimental effects to our surface water, private wells or the underlying aquifer. These reports also typically fail to address environmental effects. Given the failure to address these problems adequately has resulted in most of our streams and lakes being water quality impaired.
A step in the right direction was Governor Scott’s 2016 emergency order, which requires any business, county or city responsible for a pollution incident to immediately tell the public. We applaud this emergency order as good public policy. To protect our quality of life, the public should be informed when a pollution spill occurs. Failure to inform the public has resulted in recurring sewage spills from the City of Tallahassee’s waste water system. We also deserve to know what went wrong and when improvements will be made to prevent such reoccurrences.
The Buck Lake Alliance believes the situation regarding sewage spill is “concerning,” and we hope you will be concerned as well. Containment and swift cleanup of spills to prevent the contamination of stormwater and our lakes and streams should be a high priority. Historical data does not illustrate that priority. The BLA also acknowledges the roll the neighborhood residents can do their part to reduce “contaminates,” such as pesticides and fertilizers reaching surface water. As part of the BLA’s communication to our neighbors, we will help to inform them of the detrimental effects of pesticides and fertilizers on our lakes and stream, referring to ORDINANCE NO. 08-O-72AA: … THE CITY OF TALLAHASSEE CODE OF GENERAL ORDINANCES TO REGULATE THE USE OF FERTILIZER WITHIN THE CITY.
Buck Lake Alliance remains seriously concerned about the connection between any spills and damage to the fragile ecosystem. Please, seriously consider putting into place the necessary steps to prevent the sewage discharges into Tallahassee lakes and streams, as well as keeping the public informed and rapid clean up when “accidents happen.”
Thank you advance for considering our concerns about our community and of the Greater Tallahassee area. If you should need additional information or wish to talk with me or our Board members, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Gerry Miller, President
The Buck Lake Alliance
cc: Leon County Administrator
Leon County Commissioners
BLA Board Members