9 Investigates: Fertilizer discharge behind Apopka wastewater treatment plant issues, city says

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APOPKA, Fla. - The city of Apopka is acknowledging what’s causing problems at its wastewater treatment plant.

The city said the discharge from fertilizer company Anuvia is behind the issues at its wastewater plant.

The issue at hand is that the city isn't equipped to handle the wastewater it agreed to accept from the company.

A spokesperson released the following statement to investigative reporter Daralene Jones: “Our daily testing shows that we are well below our compliance levels from the city and the state in every chemical and element specifically listed in our permit. That said, our suspicion is the level of chemical oxygen demand is the issue. COD is absolutely harmless to humans - a can of soda has 15 times the amount of chemical oxygen demand that is found in our wastewater. As such, there is no mention of chemical oxygen demand in any of our permits with the city or state. However, it does cause issues to wastewater treatment facilities as it affects the microbes in the facility. Whatever the testing shows, Anuvia is committed to finding a solution at our facility and to make needed improvements to the city's facility to ensure (it) can handle the discharge that was permitted in the spring of 2014.”

The city is now paying an independent engineering firm up to $15,000 to figure out how it can fix the problem.

That has some residents concerned.

“We believe another company who has no ties should come in and investigate,” said Richard King.

The city's Assistant Public Services director told the Florida Department of Environmental Protection they have been, “Sampling wastewater coming from Anuvia to determine the components of their discharge that (is) upsetting the plant. And Kevin Burguess (Apopka’s Public Works director) ‘promised enforcement action.’"  

Anuvia sends thousands of gallons of wastewater to the city daily, as part of its process to produce a one-of-a-kind fertilizer.

In June, 9 Investigates reported about wastewater going to the plant had increased in nitrogen and ammonia.

It kills the bugs needed to help clean the reclaimed water before it can be put out for public use to the city's 45,000 residents.

Five employees have quit over issues at the plant, concerned about their health. “We just basically were getting blamed for it and we knew it wasn't us,” said Joseph Faber.

The results from samples taken from Anuvia are expected back within a week or two.

The independent engineer hired by the city will wrap up its their work next week and have a report within two weeks.

It should be noted that the city is spending $61 million to update its outdated wastewater plant, and Anuvia is also planning an expansion.

 

 

 

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