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CCP hears wastewater research completed

By Staff | Aug 20, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Secretary Mike Mullins, second from right, and the rest of the Captiva Community Panel discuss the work of the Sea-Level Rise Committee and a new funding request to retain the group's consultant.

At its recent meeting, the Captiva Community Panel received an update on the supplemental wastewater research project, as well as decided not to allocate additional funds to extend – for a second time – the pilot program for iguana control service.

On Aug. 13, Panel Member Jay Brown reported that he had spoken with David Tomasko, of Environmental Science Associates. Hired as a consultant, he is identifying the benefits and risks of the island continuing with its septic reliance and practices versus a type of central sewer program.

The panel will utilize Tomasko’s findings, along with the county-funded TKW study on wastewater alternatives, to decide whether to recommend a different approach on wastewater for the future.

“He has advised me that he has completed his research,” Brown said.

“He has begun to develop his general conclusions,” he added.

Based on his research, Tomasko’s preliminary finding appears to be that Captiva’s existing septic systems do not pose a significant risk to the coastal environment in terms of nutrients and pathogens.

But, limited separation between drain field and the seasonal high water table may be the problem.

“The risk is primarily in the Village area and low-lying areas along the bayside,” Brown said, explaining that as that separation decreases – like when factoring in rising sea levels – the systems will increasing become ineffective over time. “People will start experiencing plumbing issues.”

He reported that he believes Tomasko’s final report will recommend for Captiva to address its septic systems, not due to environmental issues but because of operational and viability concerns.

“There’s going to be a big need to do something about the septic systems,” Brown said. “I think he’s going to be advising us that we need to take action on many septic systems on Captiva.”

The Wastewater Committee chair, he reiterated that he is not advocating one way or another.

“My whole desire here is to bring forward as many facts as I can,” Brown said.

Tomasko is expected to provide an oral presentation of his findings to the Wastewater Committee in late August. He will issue a first draft of the report in advance of the panel’s September meeting, which is when Brown will review the highlights of the report for attendees and gather input from the panel.

Upon receiving the panel’s feedback, Tomasko will draft his final report.

The final report is expected before the November meeting, with a town hall set for January.


Also at the meeting, Panel Member Dave Jensen reported that contractor Alfredo Fermin, owner of AAA Wildlife Trapping and Removal Services, had just finished his 14-week contract. He was initially hired for 10 weeks for $5,000 as a pilot program, but the panel paid $2,000 to extend it for a month.

“The extension of the original contact is completed,” Jensen said.

Panel Administrator Ken Gooderham explained for the group that Fermin had tracked his work and submitted a report for the panel to review. Over the 14 weeks, he collected a total of 342 iguanas.

“So, it’s a remarkable amount,” he said.

Gooderham added that Fermin noted the iguanas were already nesting along the shorelines and appeared to be moving inland on Captiva in search of resources, based on the population.

President David Mintz reported that since last month’s panel meeting, he has been in communication with county officials about what options are available to the island for a funded permanent service year-round. He provided them with Fermin’s report and a proposal for an annual contract for $42,000.

According to Mintz, county officials reported that Lee County Domestic Animal Services does not handle iguana issues. They also pointed out how Boca Grande set up a Municipal Service Taxing Unit, or MSTU, to pay for its iguana control service and suggested that Captiva consider the same route.

However, Mintz pointed out that Boca Grande worked into its MSTU the installation of street lights and such. He added that it will likely cost more to set up the MSTU than just paying for iguana service.

After being told there may be some discretionary funds available, but a policy needed to be in place, since the only precedent set is what Boca Grande did, Mintz approached Commissioner John Manning. After speaking, Manning brought up the topic at the next county commissioner’s meeting as planned.

“He did bring up the issue of the iguana problem on Captiva,” Mintz said.

“He asked staff to come up with some options to fund the trapping of iguanas,” he added.

Mintz and Jensen explained that the question is whether to approve additional panel monies for a second extension of Fermin’s services, while the county continues to look at possible funding.

“I think we should,” Mintz said. “Just so that we don’t lost control of the iguanas.”

“If we don’t get the money, I think we need to take a different course, different action,” he added. “I just don’t know what that would be.”

Brown voiced opposition to extending the service without a guarantee of county support.

“Unless we’re prepared to do this for god knows how many months,” he said.

Jensen agreed with Brown, noting that iguanas hatch once a year and hatching time has passed.

The panel agreed not to extend the contract again and for Mintz to continue speaking to the county.


Also during the meeting, the panel discussed the work of the Sea-Level Rise Committee.

On behalf of Chair Linda Laird, Mintz reported that the $5,000 for industry consultant Kate Gooderham to assist the group is nearly gone, so the committee asked for an additional $5,000.

“The understanding from the committee chair is Kate’s work has been invaluable,” he said, relaying also that “the committee would not be able to proceed without Gooderham and her expertise.”

Several panel members voiced concern about the request for one reason or another.

Panel Member Rene Miville explained that he wanted an outline of what duties and objectives Gooderham is to perform, basically a draft of her scope of work to “keep everything on the straight and narrow” before he could support another payment. He said the work so far has been lacking it.

“I looked at that and I didn’t see a critical path,” Miville said.

Secretary Mike Mullins preferred to have Laird present to state her case.

“I would prefer to see this get more organized,” he added, noting that he would rather table the vote until next month and hear from the chair. “We just can’t keep throwing money at committees.”

Brown pointed to how late the fund request came in from Laird.

However, he explained that the committee is still in the information-gathering mode so he can understand why it is operating on a broad general scope at this point. Brown continued that he thinks the committee has not reached the stage yet of setting its specific targets, projects and so forth.

“We’re still in fact-finding mode, and Kate’s a part of that,” he said.

Brown voiced support for allocating the extra $5,000 to carry Kate through the next three or four months with the committee, then imposing a level of discipline and scope of work at that time.

After some further discussion, a motion was made to table the vote until September.

It passed 4-3, with Miville, Jensen, Mullins and Panel Member Ante Baumgarten voting in favor of delaying the decision, while Mintz, Brown and Vice President Mike Borris opposed the motion.


– The panel voted 7-0 to submit a letter to the Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in support of its proposed deviation to the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule 2008.

– Mintz reported that he informed the county of the panel’s desire to prohibit fishing from the Blind Pass Bridge, which was decided in two separate votes, along with its interest in creating an ADA-accessible fishing structure. It will speak to the Department of Transportation and get back to Mintz.

– On behalf of the panel, Ken Gooderham submitted a funding request to the county to cover the installation of new vegetation, clean up and maintenance of the beach entrance on Andy Rosse Lane.

He is also in the process of seeking a permit through the county for the project.

– Mintz reported that Johnson Engineering completed its initial drawings of the Captiva Drive walkway, which will stretch from the post office to Andy Rosse, and it is now updating the design.

“So we are moving ahead as scheduled,” he said.