Carrabelle commissioners expressed little interest in another proposal to provide water and sewer service to St. George Island.
At the Jan. 9 city meeting, developer Gene Langston asked for commissioners’ support to take another shot at offering sewer service to St. George Island. He proposed running a sewer line to Eastpoint and across the bridge to the island, but was met with skepticism and apathy.
Langston said three main problems persist with the Apalachicola Bay: lack of water from the Apalachicola River, excessive stormwater runoff and pollution by sewage.
“They’ve tested the bay for 40 years but nobody has done anything on a large scale to make it right,” he said. “I don’t care how much freshwater is coming down the river if you keep polluting it.”
Langston said similar problems were what killed Tampa and Chesapeake bays. He said much of the pollution entering the bay came from septic tanks on the island and that piping the sewage to Carrabelle for treatment would both solve the problem and make a profit for Carrabelle.
“You have plenty of capacity,” he said.
He suggested funding for the pipeline to Carrabelle and the sewer system on the island could be obtained from the BP oil suit settlement.
“I see this as a regional problem,” said Langston. “I don’t mind doing the legwork (to obtain BP funding). I need to know you are willing to (support the project),” he said.
But, several commissioners were openly critical of the project.
“I think we would be overstepping our business capacity,” Commissioner Brenda La Paz. “The Northwest Florida Water Management District would like to see us as a regional provider, but they want to see smart reasonable growth. There are closer areas we could serve.”
She said SummerCamp, St. James Island, and housing developments west of Carrabelle were all more realistic targets for expansion of the city sewer system.
La Paz said Carrabelle could not afford to assume more debt. She said both St. George Island and the county commission had fought an earlier attempt by Carrabelle to purchase Water Management Services, Inc., the water company that serves St. George Island.
La Paz said that a sewer system would open the island to rapid, unplanned development. “Nobody wants to see that,” she said.
“Those lots will develop with septic tanks anyway. I’ve sold hundreds of those one acre lots,” said Langston.
Commissioner Charlotte Schneider agreed with La Paz. “I think it’s a sin that we have septic tanks polluting the bay but the county got really upset when we even talked about the island,” she said. “I’m in favor of talking to Franklin County.”
Former city commissioner Cal Allen spoke from the audience to say the city had a right to pursue a business deal with the island with or without support from the county. But he questioned the feasibility of the plan.
He said he did not believe it was legal to run a sewer line across the bay because it receives special protection under state law.
Langston said he believed that a pipeline could be constructed on the bridge.
Commissioners moved to table the discussion until further research could be done on the feasibility of Langston’s project.