by Steve Thompson, Marco Island City Manager
The old saw frequently repeated about the top three issues impacting sales of property, ie: location, location, location, is similar to the guidelines for City Managers in communities with active and engaged residents – communicate, communicate, communicate. This article communicates and summarizes the status of the two environmental issues that developed out of the support for and opposition to the Septic Tank Replacement Program (STRP) in 2005.
For many in the community the stop-and-go nature of regulatory issues has created a belief that these issues are resolved – out of sight and out of mind. Despite substantial breaks between requests, the City has continued to respond to questions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Departmental of Environmental Protection (DEP) about the issues of hydrogen sulfide, generated from decaying mangroves, and the uncovering of asbestos pipes installed with the original water system by Florida Water, These same environmental issues face Florida many communities, and we are not alone in our need to comply with these regulations and changing technical requirements. In my experience regulatory agencies never completely close an issue from consideration once raised, but the demand for new information will decline, as it has with these issues.
Many of us, including new members to City Council, are new to these discussions, and recently the City received and I shared a “Notice to Show Cause” from the EPA on the asbestos-cement pipe dug up during the Collier Boulevard Project. In brief:
The entire cleanup from the construction project has been accomplished under the direction of the EPA and the DEP, and the site has been cleared to the standards of these regulatory agencies. While the “Notice to Show Cause” is not a notice of violation, which typically is the first step in an investigation, we are treating this as a serious issue and recognize the role of regulatory agencies in these discussions. The EPA has suggested that the City and the contractor, Quality Enterprises, meet to discuss a complete and final settlement of this matter, and this meeting should take place in May of this year.
Marco Island is a safe place in which to live and to raise your family, and the issues raised through the Collier Boulevard Project have been addressed. Even so, however, there are other issues that will affect this Island community, Florida, and the nation in this discussion. Asbestos-containing cement was widely used in the construction industry until the mid-1990s, and the addition of asbestos to cement created an extremely durable material for pipes and shingles. It appears that health concerns for water customers receiving water through these pipes has been debated and debatable, but the use of this pipe material was discontinued based on the increased risk of asbestos exposure to workers directly handling this cement material. Marco Island is not alone in this issue, and there are established practices guiding and being developed for use by the hundreds of utility systems using asbestos cement pipes.
On Marco Island we are often frantic about new issues and concerns, and this frantic treatment of issues is usually based on legitimate concerns about the cost or ability of the City to meet changing needs. Generally I find that as a community we do have the ability to anticipate and address new issues as they develop, and sometimes the message from the City should be simple – everything is okay, we will take care of this as a community, you will be kept informed, but this is not an emergency. Government has pluses and minuses, but in this community we have an outstanding Council, good volunteers serving to advise Council, and an extremely competent staff, and the work and issues we face are not extremely difficult and are manageable.
There are always a number of issues coming forward, and as we encounter these, I appreciate your continued support and engagement with this community. Thank you for living in this City, and I look forward to working with you.