Gulfport is a small city in Pinellas County with big sewage infrastructure problems. Although the volume of pollution originating from Gulfport's sewage treatment system is much less than St. Pete's pollution, Gulfport's dilapidated wastewater system has been neglected for decades, and now maintenance and upgrades are urgently overdue.
Like St. Pete, Gulfport negotiated a "consent order" with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP") after major spills in 2015 and 2016 that was inadequate and remains in effect for only five years. DEP has a record of lax enforcement of these orders, and Gulfport had no interest in hearing from Suncoast Waterkeeper about our suggestions to improve the proposed Consent Order. The Executive Director was ejected from a City Council meeting while attempting to offer public comment about on the issue.
In January of 2017, Suncoast Waterkeeper filed suit along with the Ecological Rights Foundation and Our Children's Earth. The litigation was intense and complicated, demanding significant resources and time from both sides. Having benefitted from winning rulings from the Federal Court in the St. Pete case and with reams of strong evidence and expert opinions, we were able to negotiate a settlement agreement with Gulfport that accomplishes our goals of ensuring adequate investigation, remediation, planning, financing and oversight under Federal Jurisdiction, while improving public notification of health hazards related to poor water quality and funding a significant environmental restoration project.