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CCP hears wastewater update, fills seat and more

By Staff | Nov 19, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI FGUA Operations Manager Glenn Forrest provides a presentation on what it would entail to expand central sewer system services to the Village area of the island.

The Captiva Community Panel heard a summary of the final report on its supplemental wastewater research project, along with a presentation about the Florida Governmental Utility Authority treatment plant, as well as filled a vacancy on the panel and dived into the Captiva Code at its recent meeting.

On Nov. 12, Panel Member and Wastewater Committee Chair Jay Brown reported that consultant David Tomasko, of Environmental Science Associates, has completed his project and his final report. Brown added that he would share some of the key findings, but solely for informational purposes.

“The meeting today is to present the information, not to start debating,” he said.

The CCP will hold a meeting in January for Tomasko to present everything to the public.

Brown reported that Tomasko reviewed prior environmental work done by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, including extensive sampling of both groundwater and wastewater quality. In addition, he examined 60 permitted septic systems on the island, out of about 300.

TIFFANY REPECKI Captiva Community Panel President David Mintz reviews the Captiva Code draft amendments.

Tomasko looked at the drain field and underlying water table in relation to the septics. He also collected and examined samples from the main stormwater drainage area near McCarthy’s Marina.

“The septic systems today likely have minimal impact to our coastal water quality,” Brown said.

He continued that Tomasko did not find a lot of nitrogen content in the groundwater under the septic systems. The stormwater samples had a “tremendous” amount of bacteria, but it was not human.

“Conventional septic reliance is not having a major impact on water quality or creating health hazards,” Brown said.

He reported that Tomasko also examined the septic systems against the Department of Health’s requirements, which include at least 24 inches of separation between the drain field and underlying groundwater, lots of at least a half-acre and at least a 75-foot setback from coastal water bodies.

Tomasko found that many of the septics examined do not have the minimum separation and the properties do not meet the size requirement, but a majority of them are OK on the setback.

“There is a lot of noncompliance now,” Brown said.

He added that Tomasko identified stormwater runoff as the number one thing that the island can address to have an impact on its coastal water quality. His recommendations and findings match what the SCCF found in a prior study. Brown reiterated that septics are not causing an issue currently.

“Longer term, as sea level rises, we may have very significant problem relying on septic tanks,” he said.

To view the PDF of the study, visit this article at www.captivasanibel.com.

In discussing the future of wastewater on Captiva, one of the alternatives that has been proposed is connecting to a central sewer system, like the one run by the city of Sanibel. Brown explained that the report by Tomasko though indicates that the septic issue is proportionally found in the Village area.

Since it may be easier to establish a collection system for one area rather than the entire island, the FGUA was asked to provide information on what it would take to expand service to the Village.

During the CCP meeting, FGUA Operations Manager Glenn Forrest and U.S. Water Services Corporation Program Manager Brad Labella provided a presentation outlining the process.

Forrest explained that the project would entail demolishing the existing plant and building a new facility, installing a force main from the plant to the Village area and establishing a collection system within the Village. It would require processing from 200,000 gallons per day to 400,000 per day.

The new facility would house an Advanced Wastewater Treatment system, removing a higher percentage of nutrients from the wastewater. It also would be built with marine environment-friendly materials, to withstand a Category 5 hurricane and to a 15-foot elevation for rising sea levels.

Labella noted that while the plant would be built to handle 400,000 gallons per day, it would be equipped with what is needed to handle 300,000 to incorporate the Village. The additional 100,000 capacity would allow for room to expand and serve the remainder of the island, if that occurred.

The estimated cost for the facility would be $8,898,493. Adding in the costs of establishing a collection system in the Village and installing the force main, the estimated total is $13,032,831.

The cost allocation would be dependent on a rate study and consider grant funding.

To view the PDF presentation, visit this article at www.captivasanibel.com.

Also during the meeting, the panel voted unanimously to appoint John Jensen to the seat recently vacated by former Panel Member Dave Jensen. The choice was between him and Linda Laird.

“Both are excellent candidates,” Secretary Mike Mullins said.

In addition, President David Mintz reminded the group that Panel Member Bob Walter is set to term out of his seat at the end of November. The nominating committee has recommended Tony Lapi.

The community has a chance to nominate others before the vote at the next meeting.

“If not, it’ll be an easy vote in December,” he said.

Also at the meeting, the panel began reviewing comments and questions from its peers on the Captiva Code draft amendments that it has been working to finalize and submit to Lee County for approval.

Mintz pointed out that two topics – dark skies, and septic inspections and regulation – generated the most discussion, so he suggested tabling both until the next month as the panel was short on time.

As for what topics were covered, the panel discussed looking at going further than banning plastic straws to plastic bottles. They agreed on an alternative definition for “noise disturbance” and on using Sanibel’s language, over Lee County’s terms, for putting fertilize regulations in place on the island.

Mintz noted that he spoke with island landscapers, who supported Sanibel’s wording.

“It’s just easier for people,” he said. “If they come on the islands, they know this is what we use.”

The panel reviewed beach protection and not allowing items to be left on the beach overnight for the entire year, not just for turtle nesting season. It includes an exemption for commercial resort operations.

“Most of this stuff we discussed before,” Mintz said. “Now, we’re just memorializing it.”

The panel will continue reviewing the draft amendments next month.

During the November meeting, the panel also started a conversation about whether to proceed with trying to extend the golf cart zone beyond the golf cart zone to include the ‘Tween Waters stretch. Mintz explained that he did some research and the Department of Transportation would make the decision.

“The county would have to conduct a study. It would have to determine if road modifications would be needed,” he said. “There can be no trial period. You have to make the safety determinations before any approval.”

Mintz noted that the DOT previously decided against extending the zone.

“The best thing we can do is listen to what people have to say,” he said, adding that the panel can create a full record of community input and then perhaps make a recommendation to the DOT for a change.

‘Tween Waters Chief Executive Officer Doug Babcock was in attendance and voiced support for the extension, noting that it is only 6/10ths of a mile. He added that a firm has been hired for a safety study.

“I don’t view it as an incredible safety issue,” Babcock said.

Jimi Batchelor, owner of Sunny Island Adventures and also present, disagreed.

“We’ve had incidents and there’s incidents that have been reported,” he said of golf cart usage without extending the zone to include the “S” curve. “My fear is that there’s going to be a bad incident.”

A representative from YOLO Watersports also was present.

After some back-and-forth debate, the panel had to suspended the discussion due to time.

The subject will be continued at the next meeting.


– Mintz reported that Alfredo Fermin, of AAA Wildlife Trapping and Removal Services, has been removing iguanas from the island on a weekly basis. The recent totals are 11, 24, 13, and 17.

– Mintz and staff are waiting to hear back from the DOT on recommendations for closing the Blind Pass Bridge to fishing. He reported that he expects to hear something in the next week or two.

– Mintz reported that the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation has raised concerns with the proposed landscaping plan for the beach entrance at Andy Rosse Lane. The concerns include the rock placement impacting sea turtle nesting, non-native species of vegetation being planted and more.