A jewel in Port Richey, the Coty River, was soiled by what neighbors called a disgrace-human excrement spilled onto the street and flowed into the river.
Captain Bob Hubbard, owner of Island Paradise Charters, sent a video to I-Team in which he described raw sewage flowing from a manhole outside his beach house and flowing into the river to show what happens when it rains heavily.
“Talk to city officials, they don’t even want to listen to you,” Hubbard said in the video. “It needs to be fixed in some way because it is absolutely disgusting.”
Hubbard said that for many years he had complained to the city about the problems that plagued heaven, a place he called home.
“This is something that all of us here have to deal with. The neighbors have come down and they have been calling the city,” Hubbard said.
Kristin Tonkin, owner of the Sunset Landing Marina in Port Richey, shared an email dated October 2019 with I-Team. Bird also worried about sewage flowing into the river, and attached another video of the problem.
“Oh, it’s really bad sometimes-you just barely cover your nose. It smells like a toilet,” one of the dockers told I-Team. “No matter what the problem is, we need to try to solve it or take some measures, because it will only hurt everyone.”
“I have called several times and have not received a response,” said John Hainlin, who lives across Hubbard on Grand Boulevard.
He lived there for 20 years.
“I can say that in the past few years, every time it rained heavily or rained for several days in a row, the manhole cover would flow up 6 inches. Sometimes I saw it pump out 10 inches, and it entered the rain drain right here. To the river,” Hainlin said. “Yes, this is a real *bad language* The storm is in Port Richey. Literally. ”
“What I worry about is the environment. People are sick. When I kayak out up and down the river, is the water contaminated? So this is my big problem,” said another neighbor, Mike Schitz.
Hubbard said the sewage did not stop in front of his house.
“I have a sunken bathtub. If I don’t plug it in, there will be untreated sewage in my house,” Hubbard said, and provided a picture of the mess. “I didn’t move here to live next to the sinkhole. This is a beautiful community, it is a beautiful river, but it is being polluted. Honestly, there is absolutely no reason for this. There is no excuse.”
I-Team brought the community’s concerns to Port Richey City Manager John Dudte and showed him Hubbard’s video.
When asked what he thought, Dutt said he was as worried as Hubbard.
“This is a challenge we need to solve,” he said.
Dudte took over as City Manager in January, bringing new perspectives to the Florida community and the Coty River.
“That is really the gem of this area,” Dutt said of the river. “This is the business card of our small community.”
Dutt previously served as the city administrator of Chapman, Kansas. He told I-Team about the sewage overflow problem, “This is one of the few priorities I got when I got here.”
Dudte stated that Port Richey and neighbors in New Port Richey and Pasco counties face challenges together.
“If you rain six inches in an hour, all we can do is keep up,” he said. “The systems we have, you know, it’s easy to say that they are outdated. It sounds like they have been abandoned. This is the reality in some places.”
The city manager said that the city is developing a capital improvement plan.
“This will require a lot of money to solve the old infrastructure problems. The infrastructure will wear out, just like anything else. When the elevator station is in use for 30 or 40 years, it is time to repair and replace. So I am happy to say, The City Council has made it a priority, they have allocated funds, and we are developing a long-term plan to prioritize the lift stations that now need to be repaired, and Chapel is addressing this list of issues,” Dutt said.
The church refers to the elevator station that affected Hubbard and his neighbors. When the sewage level starts to rise, the station will warn the city that, as Hubbard sometimes sees, the sewage overflows.
“This is a very serious situation, and the country thinks so,” Duterte said. “If a leak occurs, it will be recorded, dealt with and reported to the state government.”
I-Team reviewed state data and found that since 2017, Port Richey has reported 14 leaks to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Throughout 2020, Florida PEER (Public Employee for Environmental Responsibility) monitored emergency alerts for sewage spills across the state.
As PEER pointed out in the report issued in September, these reports should include the number of gallons spilled and cleaned up, and whether it affected any water bodies. But this does not always happen.
The non-profit organization found that only 12 counties, including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota, were inspected, and 856 notices were sent to the state last year. This accounts for more than 126 million gallons of leakage. According to national reports, most of them (nearly 110 million) went into the water.
The city manager of Port Richey said this is a common problem faced by communities in Florida.
“The extent to which we respond to and alleviate the sewage problem depends on us, and we strive to minimize it,” Dude said.
Port Richey recently purchased a new vacuum truck worth $500,000 to help pump sewage from the city’s aging lifting station.
“For a small town like this, this is a big deal, and it takes a lot of money to deal with this problem specifically,” Duterte said. “Clean and dirty water is the top priority of Port Richey.”
Hubbard said they couldn’t wait any longer.
“There are a lot of dolphins here. Manatees have been swimming around my dock. Birds, pelicans, they eat the fish here, ospreys, so it affects everything. All residents, wild animals, everyone will be affected,” He said. “It has been ignored, we are depressed and tired.”
The city manager told I-Team Port Richey that they will see changes in the next six months to a year, as they are working hard to complete the capital improvement plan and start upgrading the lift station.
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