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Fort Myers faces over $500,000 in fines for sewage in city water

Fort Myers leaders are negotiating with Florida Department of Environmental Protection after the City was accused of numerous environmental violations that have it on the hook for upwards of $500,000 in fines.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection sent a draft order to the City of Fort Myers because of sewage found in city water.

Mayor Kevin Anderson spoke to us, and he is not happy to learn about this hazard being found.

“Outrage,” Anderson said. “I was highly, highly upset.”

Anderson is fired up over the fact the City faces fines from DEP for 70 different spills over three years.

MORE: DEP Consent Order to City of Fort Myers

According to DEP, in March 2020, 183,000 gallons of raw wastewater got into Manuels Branch.

“Not a good situation, not at all,” Anderson said.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” Councilman Fred Burson said.

Burson and Anderson say they were misled. They told us, back in September 2020 at a water quality workshop, City Manager Saeed Kazemi and his staff said things were looking up.

“It’s almost like we’re being blindsided,” Anderson said.

“Obviously, it was a cover-up. I just can’t understand why someone in that position would think they’d get away with that cover up, knowing the DEP is doing the work,” Burson said. “He’s a smart man. He knows better. I think it’s a character flaw.”

Councilwoman Teresa Watkins-Brown said she’s working with the city manager on this and told us it’s wrong to call this a cover-up.

“I really don’t think the city manager was trying to hide anything,” Watkins-Brown said.

Regardless of who knew what and when, the City now must pay up.

The City is proposing an “in-kind” solution to the DEP. That means, instead of paying a $500,000 fine, it will spend more money — more than $700,000 — on projects to improve water quality.

Burson and Anderson told us those are still taxpayer dollars, however.

We reached out to Kazemi to ask him about all of this, and we have not heard back at this time.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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