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Captiva Community Panel finds a glimmer of hope over sewer debate

By Staff | Jun 22, 2016

The Captiva Community Panel continues to explore how to implement a program to make sure island septic tanks are functional and non-polluting.

During last month’s community meeting, the panel asked whether Lee County could implement a regular septic tank assessment and evaluation program. The same question arose back in 2011. Planner Max Forgey followed up after that meeting to see if matters have changed from five years ago.

Forgey and his attorney affiliate, Kyle Magee, found that, based on s. 381.00651 Florida Statutes, a municipality or local government may not implement a mandatory annual septic assessment and evaluation program. Such assessment may occur only once every five years.

Section 381.00651 also specifies that “[a]ny county or municipalities, which contain a first magnitude spring may at any time develop and adopt by local ordinance an onsite sewage treatment and disposal system and assessment program, provided such program meets and does not deviate from the requirements of this section.”

Forgey said he did not believe the county has a spring, which he verified after the meeting.

Meanwhile, they agreed to continue to pursue an inspection and assessment process.

“To me, it’s not a definite no. The bottom line is there could be a program Lee County could implement that would require inspections every five years to make sure those septics are working and if they’re in failure, require a repair,” said David Mintz, a sewer committee panel member.

Most people on the panel saw inspections every five years as a starting point. During the meeting, Peter Koury decided to join the sewer committee panel.

After the last meeting in May, some of the panel members met with Mayor Kevin Ruane and the Sanibel city staff to update them on the work they’ve done so far and to explain that they are working with Lee County to develop a proposal for a waste water alternative study.

“We received a lot of feedback from Sanibel. They’re very supportive of our effort to look at waster water alternatives. The second major comment was that they were quite surprised that they had not been contacted by Lee County, or us previously since they have a lot of expertise on waste water alternatives on their staff,” Mintz said.

A few days before the meeting, the panel received a draft proposal from Pam Keyes, director of utilities for Lee County. Jay Brown, a sewer committee member plans on sharing the proposal with the city of Sanibel to get their input. Koury would like to have a public meeting in regards to the sewer committee before the county gets involved while Mintz believes they should just move along with the plans with Sanibel’s input right now until they have the facts to present to the public.

“The important thing is to get the ball rolling. The committee has gone as far as it can go on its own. It’s time to get the experts together and collect data that this study calls for,” Mintz said.

Sandy Stilwell agreed that Sanibel should be involved as well. She felt that if they don’t move forward, they’ll be in the same predicament three years from now.

Koury said that there are a number of people on the island who would not want this to go through. He fears that if the county gets involved, things will spiral out of control.

The people on the island should have a voice in this,” Koury said.

At the end of the meeting, everyone on the panel besides Koury voted go forward with finding the facts before presenting their plan to the public. The July 12 meeting was canceled. They rescheduled the next meeting for the second week of August.