Environmental Groups Intend to Sue City

Three environmental groups sent a notice of intent to file a lawsuit against the city of Gulfport last Friday over its sewage discharges, which the groups allege is a violation of the Clean Water Act. In a press release, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Our Children’s Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation filed a 60-day notice for what they call “serious and ongoing violations” which “repeatedly sent raw and partially treated sewage into storm drains, streams, neighborhoods, and local waters including Tampa Bay, Clam Bayou, the Boca Ciega Bay Aquatic Preserve, and the Gulf of Mexico.”

According to Suncoast Waterkeeper CEO Justin Bloom, “Gulfport’s sewage woes are emblematic of a region-wide failure to address aging sewage infrastructure and increasing incidents of pollution inundating communities and the coastal waterways that they rely on and enjoy, like Gulfport’s beautiful Boca Ciega Bay and Clam Bayou.”

The notice of intent was filed after 5 p.m. on Friday, October 28, so Gulfport city officials were reviewing the documents on Monday.

“I have just received the information. I will be discussing further with the city attorney. Unfortunately, at this time I cannot comment on potential pending legislation,” said Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly.

The 60-day notice of intent is required as a first step to filing a federal lawsuit but the groups will first try to negotiate with the city. According to the Sarasota-based Suncoast Waterkeeper website, its mission is to protect and restore the Florida Suncoast’s waterways through enforcement, fieldwork, advocacy, and environmental education for the benefit of the communities that rely upon these precious coastal resources.

“We hope to work with Gulfport and neighboring communities to help address their failing sewage systems. We aim to collaboratively develop a binding Consent Decree that will aim to upgrade the system and eliminate sewage spills,” Bloom said Monday.

The groups filed a similar notice of intent against the city of St. Petersburg on September 28.

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