Originally published by WGCU News on September 27, 2021

Fort Myers is set to spend over $60 million to improve the water quality in the Caloosahatchee River. The city already accepted blame for repeatedly dumping untreated wastewater into waterways after the Department of Environmental Protection filed a consent order that detailed numerous violations of clean water regulations.

“The consent order lays out a timeline and specific tasks the city has to do to come back into compliance on these issues,” Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said. “They were given a choice that they could do some in-kind projects, or they could pay a fine of about $700,000. So that’s kind of what the consent order did. Or is doing, it’s ongoing.”

As a part of the city’s efforts to clean up the river they have entered into an agreement with the City of Cape Coral to construct a pipeline across the Caloosahatchee River that transmits reclaimed water from Fort Myers to Cape Coral. According to the pipeline’s official website, it will allow Fort Myers to dispose of surplus reclaimed water in an environmentally friendly way, while reducing the need to discharge into the Caloosahatchee River.

While the city has requested additional funding from the state, as it stands, it will be paying for this project by borrowing money.

“If you kind of follow or understand how decisions are made within a city on infrastructure, it’s expensive, and if you don’t invest in, for example, sewage or water treatment infrastructure through time to keep it in pace with added growth, then you start to see the system fail,” Cassani said. “And I think that’s what was happening here.”

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