9 Investigates: Lawsuit filed against state over Indian River Lagoon ecosystem

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. —

9 Investigates first reported last year about the record number of dolphins dying in the mucky waters of the Indian River Lagoon.           

ON Thursday, we learned the state of Florida is about to be sued for it.

Investigative reporter Christopher Heath went to Brevard County to speak to the group behind the pending suit and their fight to save the ecosystem.

Business leaders and environmentalists said the Indian River Lagoon's ecosystem is at a tipping point, and they want to force the state's hand.

As a small business owner, Tim Chastain makes his living off the Indian River Lagoon by taking customers kayaking. He's also suing the state.

"It affects my business but it also affects the species," he said.

Chastain is the named plaintiff in the 60-day notice of pending litigation against the Florida Department of Health.

The notice said the state has failed to regulate the growing use of septic tanks along the lagoon, with human waste killing the species that call this water home.

"We have seen record number of endangered species turning up dead on the shore," said former Department of Environmental Protection attorney Christopher Byrd, who drew up the suit.

In the lawsuit, Byrd said an estimated 300,000 septic tanks are draining into the lagoon, killing the ecosystem.

The suit demands the state fix the system, most likely by installing sewers.

"This has been a barbaric practice that the state has known about for 30 years," said Byrd.

9 Investigates reached out to the Florida Department of Health, a named defendant in the suit, but have not heard back.