Illegal levels of toxin being released into Caloosahatchee
While they're easy to catch, they're also delicate creatures.
"These are much more sensitive fish," explains biologist and fishing guide George Howell. He's describing a fish called a ballyhoo.
To keep fish like these healthy, and our drinking water safe
the Fort Myers Water Treatment Plant uses chlorine to disinfect waste water
before discharging it into the
But that disinfectant releases a byproduct that's considered a toxin. High levels can kill small aquatic life like shrimp and in extreme cases, cause cancer in humans.
The Federal Clean Water Act limits how much of that toxin
can go into the river. But the NBC2 Investigators discovered the
"The existing plants that we have are not designed to prevent disinfectant byproducts from forming," explained Kevin Wagner, the plant superintendent.
The Department of Environmental Protection knows the plant is exceeding the levels. But is letting them do it anyway.
"It does violate state law to have overflows into the creek", Jon Iglehart, DEP District Director told us.
Iglehart says the levels are safe.
IGLEHART: "The levels are so that there is not an impact on health of the invertebrates…"
ANDY: "So far."
IGLEHART: "So far, but we continue to monitor it."
To date the plant has been fined $97,000. And there's no way to know when the discharge will stop, because it would cost about $3 million to upgrade the facility.
In the mean time, the city has applied for a mixing zone permit. It's basically gives the city permission to continue discharging limits set over what the Clean Water Act allows, without fixing the problem where it starts.
We showed our findings to Michael Valiquette, chairman of PURRE, People United to Restore our Rivers and Estuaries. He calls the mixing zones and fines a bandaid fix.
"It's cheaper the pay the fine than it is to fix the problem. We want them to fix the problem, plain and simple," he told us.
The city of