Survey discrepancy sees potentially large impacts for city’s spray fields

While conducting surveys in an attempt to honor a consent order regarding the size of the city’s spray fields, the city uncovered a survey discrepancy that will likely slow progress on the project.

According to Kevin Pettis, the city’s wastewater plant manager, the discrepancy has made it unclear whether the city has placed the spray heads for their treated wastewater spray fields correctly on their property or encroached on neighboring fields.

The city has been granted a 60 day extension in order to complete the required paperwork to attempt to resolve the problem.

“We’ve got a survey discrepancy that’s going to hold our spray field work, so right now, Dewberry’s working on getting whatever we can, as far as discrepancy goes, which means we’re trying to talk to property owners around us and see if we can maybe lease or not lose so much of our field that it costs us on our annual average numbers,” Pettis said at the most recent city meeting.

“We’ve got until the end of November to figure out where the actual lines are and whether our spray heads are on our property or not.”

The city currently disposes of their treated waste over a 78 acre spray field behind the Highland View neighborhood. 

They adopted this system in 2012 after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection deemed their existing disposal methods, which involved pumping treated waste into the bay, environmentally harmful.

At the time when it was adopted, the land application system was a new process, which, according to a Star article from 2010, “eliminate(d) the need for surface water discharge of treated wastewater and satisf(ied) the requirements of the consent order issued by DEP.”

The previous surveys were conducted before the spray field was initially installed in 2012, and a survey of the area has not been conducted since.

Under the consent order, the city has been asked to increase the distance between their spray heads and neighboring properties.

Reduced spray field size and potential ramifications from the survey discrepancies raised concerns among the city commissioners, who expressed that as it is, there is an overabundance of treated wastewater at the city’s sewage plant.

Last month, the county called a special meeting regarding a strong sewage smell in the Highland View neighborhood that resulted from an algal bloom, which then died in the plant’s treatment pond, a consistent issue that they have been trying to solve for nearly a decade with little progress. 

“This will adversely affect our need to put more flow over there,” said Mayor Rex Buzzett at the October 4 city meeting. 

Pettis responded that in order to truly address the problem of the smell, the city would have to pump enough treated wastewater onto their spray fields to reduce the amount of water sitting in the treatment pond by about half.

“If the pond were half of what it is now, half the level, then things would change, but we can’t get it down that far,” he said. “So with the equipment we’ve got, it’ll be years before we can get the pond down.”

In the short term, Pettis said the city has budgeted for additional treatments, which target the layer of algae responsible for producing the foul smell. Additionally, they have ordered a second ultrasonic disruptor for use during especially bad blooms.

Pettis said he has also reached out to Deseret Ranching and Cattle to see if they had use for the treated wastewater, which is known to be an excellent fertilizer.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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