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Failing Fort Myers wastewater system could cause major sewage spill

Fort Myers leaders have learned the equipment inside the City’s wastewater system is failing, which could lead to a catastrophic sewage spill.

This comes after Mayor Kevin Anderson and Fort Myers City Council were already dealing with more than $500,000 in fines due to Florida Department of Environmental Protection determining the City failed to address previous sewage spills.

The mayor did not hide his feelings during a public meeting at city hall. He asked direct and pointed questions to the man in charge of the city’s public works department.

The State DEP said Fort Myers was responsible for 70 different spills, many of which ended up in our waterways.

“Are we OK to think that there are no pumps out there ready to go?” Anderson asked.

“No. I cannot say that,” said Richard Moulton, the director of Fort Myers Public Works.

Anderson and council also learned for the first time the City has paid outside company Siemens AG millions of dollars since 2016 to maintain its water system, a system now determined to be failing.

“How likely are we to face a catastrophic failure at one of our plants,” Anderson asked? “In general, are we in the face of a failure because of the systems that’s installed and not being maintained properly?”

“We’re in the process of replacing all these,” Moulton responded.

“I understand we’re in the process, but are we at risk of a major failure at one of these plants?” Anderson asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Moulton said.

The city engineer was asked similar questions and shared a similar response to the public works director.

“Again, I will ask the members of the council, how many of you were aware that this problem even existed?” Anderson said.

The answer was none.

Mayor Anderson and Councilman Fred Burson have placed blame on the city manager for both problems.

“There was an issue with the DEP that we needed to negotiate,” City Manager Saeed Kazemi said.

“It doesn’t matter if there was an issue,” Anderson said. “I requested rightfully so a document, and I was not provided it.”

At first Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown supported the city manager at the onset of the wastewater management issues, saying he’s not intentionally going around the city and bursting pipes. But when she learned about the City paying a private company to maintain the water plants, she stopped.

Mayor Anderson wants an independent investigation into the City’s wastewater management.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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