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ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP for CLEAN WATER & ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT VIOLATIONS SUED MARATHON

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP for CLEAN WATER & ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT VIOLATIONS SUED MARATHON

Friends of the Lower Keys (FOLKs), an environmental group, filed suit against the City of Marathon in the Southern District of the U.S District Court on January 11.

The city’s practice of dumping wastewater 60-120 feet underground is challenged in the lawsuit. The water is treated before discharge. However, the lawsuit states the area around the injection wells contains highly porous limestone known to be karst. This allows polluted waters to quickly move from the wells to nearshore waters. 

FOLKs claims that the city violates the Clean Water Act by releasing wastewater into the Florida Keys waters without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), permit.

The suit claims that injection well discharges causing water quality violations harm endangered fish, corals, and turtles as well as their delicate habitats. This constitutes a violation to the Endangered Species Act by a unlawful taking of these organisms.

FOLKs wants Marathon to change from shallow injection wells to deeper wells that release pollutants more than 2,000 feet below the ground.

Marathon City Manager George Garrett issued a statement in reply to the allegations. 

Garrett said that the plaintiff challenges the city’s long-standing practice of disposing of highly processed wastewater into injection wells. This is in violation of federally enforceable permits. Garrett said that Florida’s septic to sewer program, advanced wastewater treatment systems, and track record of environmental compliance, are the gold standard. 

The statement cites multiple awards that the wastewater and stormwater treatment system has won, including the Pisces Award by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for its holistic approach in designing the treatment system in 2008. The statement also mentions that the treatment system was named the American Public Works Association Project of the year in the Environment category in 2013.

The City of Marathon hired environmental lawyers Gary Perko of Holtzman Vogel and David Childs of the Holtzman Vogel to assist Steve Williams, the City Attorney, in defending the city in court.

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Williams stated that our core responsibility is to preserve the environment and public health, and to do this in a cost-effective way for our community. We take the potential consequences of the plaintiffs’ request to relief our utility ratepayers very seriously. 

Williams, Perko, and Childs will address Marathon City Council to discuss this case in closed attorney-client session Tuesday, February 8.

Mark Migdal, Hayden are representing FOLKs. Jose E. Martinez will preside.

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