Upgrade the Collier County Wastewater Treatment Plants

Oxygen is an essential component of the aquatic environment. The most important measurement of water quality, oxygen indicates a waterbody’s state of health – that is, the ability to support aquatic life. Watersheds with oxygen concentrations of 5 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or higher can support well-balanced, healthy biological communities.

Oxygen in the 23 watersheds managed by Collier County has steadily dropped by 35% over the last 20 years to 3.5 mg/L, 30% lower than healthy levels. A “hypoxic dead zone” has formed in the center of Collier County, overlapping the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Oxygen levels are 0.9 mg/L in Immokalee and Ave Maria, 82% lower than healthy levels.

Excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) delivered to a waterbody can lead to both overgrowth of algae and eutrophication. As dead algae decompose, oxygen is consumed in the process, resulting in low levels of oxygen in the water. Because there are increasingly more people living in coastal areas, there are more nutrients entering Florida’s coastal waters from wastewater treatment facilities, runoff from land in urban areas during rains, and from farming.

The Collier County Pollution Control Department (PCD) recommendation 7.6 (FY22 Collier County Surface Water Report) states; “Reduction of nutrient pollution should remain a priority
County-wide. Reducing nutrients at the source is more cost effective and efficient than restoring ecosystems after they have been impacted by nutrients. Source reduction strategies should be considered and include the following: require low impact development for new and redevelopment; agricultural operations (including golf courses) should be following assigned best management practices (BMPs) for their operations and verified that the BMPs being implemented are effective; permitted discharges not meeting water quality standards should be remediated; and converting existing wastewater plants to advanced wastewater treatment (AWT) technologies.”

We encourage the Collier County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) to implement PCD recommendation 7.6 and mandate that all WWTP in Collier County be upgraded to AWT targeting the reduction of sewage reclaimed water nutrients to current (2023) Limits of Technology (LOT).

Eugene Wordehof

Collier Citizen’s Council