The Chassahowitzka River Restoration Committee today notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that it will sue to halt septic tank pollution of the Chassahowitzka River and Spring. Septic tank pollution has become so severe that some water samples show fecal coliform pollution at levels five times higher than the absolute limit set by law. The dangerously high levels of these bacteria indicate that the river and spring constitute disease vectors for serious human illnesses including cholera, hepatitis, dengue fever, and various parasites and viruses. Testing by a scientist hired by the Restoration Committee showed that the river and spring water also tested positive for enteric viruses, a clear indication that that the pollution is coming from septic tanks.
"People swim in this river without knowing that it is seriously polluted with dangerous human pathogens," said David Guest, lead attorney at the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund Florida Office. "The DEP has abdicated its legal responsibility to prevent and halt water pollution."
The Chassahowitzka River and Spring are situated north of Weeki Wachee Springs. The river flows through the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and into the Gulf of Mexico. Numerous houses and mobile homes line canals connected to the spring and river. Almost all these homes rely on septic tanks that drain untreated sewage directly through the ground, where they flow into the waters connected to the spring. Residents and tourists alike use the clear waters of the river for swimming and fishing.
"We've been trying to get the attention of the County, the Water Management District, and the DEP for well over a year," said Mickey Newberger of the Chassahowitzka River Restoration Committee. " We have no choice left but to go to court and make the government comply with the law."
The lawsuit will demand that DEP take immediate action to address this health threat. Under state law, DEP must take action to eliminate the pollution within 30 days if it is to avoid the lawsuit. The lawsuit would be filed in Citrus County Circuit Court in Inverness.