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Emotions run high as Wakulla County officials debate wastewater treatment options at public meeting

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 11:33 AM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - After two and a half hours of heated debate inside the Wakulla County Community Center, the future of the county’s wastewater treatment plan still seems murky. And plenty of people remain opposed to the leading option: a new wetland park off U.S. 98.

Everyone agrees the county’s current system won’t be able to handle expected growth.

Along with officials from around the state, county officials made the case for a wetland park that become a dumping site for hundreds of thousands of gallons of treated wastewater every day.

One presenter noted that septic tanks remain one of the leading polluters of nitrates into precious waters like Wakulla Springs. According to Wakulla County Administrator David Edwards, the county has worked to remove thousands of pounds of nitrates from the system by converting homes on septic tanks to the sewer system.

“To say we don’t care? Really?” Edwards said at the start of the meeting, preemptively pushing back against a growing wave of criticism about the plab.

The debate centers around the newly-purchased parcel along U.S. 98 not far from Spring Creek Hwy. Several state experts voiced support for using the wetland system to filter the treated wastewater even further.

Several of those who showed up in opposition to the plan seemed to warm to the proposed technology and layout. But all seemed to share concerns about location.

“All we’re asking is for a better location,” one opponent said during a heated and lengthy question and answer session.

Commissioner Ralph Thomas admitted the county could still look at different locations, noting that the process is still in its early phases. But he said the current parcel is the leading contender. Edwards mentioned at one point that he had looked all over the county, but this parcel was just about the only option.

Thomas rejected criticism that the plan would hurt Wakulla Springs, pointing to the county’s work to remove septics tanks.

“We wouldn’t recognize that progress and then turn around and reverse that progress and start causing harm to Wakulla Springs,” he said.

Despite attempts to win over the mostly-opposed crowd, county officials still have a long way to go.

Many of those who entered the meeting opposed to the proposal told WCTV they left the meeting with the same convictions.

According to Edwards, the next action item may appear on an agenda in late March.

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