POLK COUNTY – After five onsite visits, Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff filed a court petition Aug. 27 to force the owners of Crooked Lake Park Sewerage Company to fix an old, privately owned sewage treatment plant near Lake Wales.
Heavy rains over the past month-and-a-half appear to have overwhelmed the facility located near Bok Academy, Warner University and U.S. 27.
Residents living in Crooked Lake Park, Caloosa Lake Village and College Park Mobile Home Park are served by the facility.
Last week many of these residents posted pictures online of raw sewage floating down streets and complained of a lack of treated tap water for multiple days, noting a foul smell as a result of damages to the plant.
FDEP staff started receiving complaints about sewage problems in the area in June and, on June 26, FDEP staff offered assistance. Since then, residents have witnessed some work being done, but FDEP staff say more work is required.
On Aug. 3, plant staff notified FDEP staff that around 400 gallons of wastewater had discharged into wetlands around Crooked Lake. On Aug. 7, residents started filing complaints about raw sewage in neighborhood streets.
FDEP staff said sewage was bubbling out of manhole covers and flowing into storm water drains connected to Crooked Lake.
On Aug. 13, during a site visit, FDEP staff informed plant staff what corrective actions were required by law. On the Aug. 15, FDEP staff made another site visit and documented that no corrective action had been taken. The following day, FDEP staff spoke with plant staff by phone about the problems.
“The (owners of the sewage plant have) not addressed any of the corrective actions in the compliance assistance letter,” stated the Aug. 27 court petition.
Louis Garrard is listed as the president of the plant in state documents. The plant maintains an office at 5578 Commercial Blvd., near Recker Highway in Winter Haven. Calls to his office were not answered and no one was present when staff for the Sun visited the office.
State documents showed the plant had a net income loss of $11,873 in 2018. The plant appears to have been built around 40 years ago.
Crooked Lake is an Outstanding Florida Water Body, a lake specifically protected by Florida Administrative Code 62-302. State regulators are seeking more than $15,000 in damages.
“Irreparable harm will result if Crooked Lake Sewerage fails to stop the discharge of waste water into the environment,” the petition reads.
Some residents said E Coli had been documented in the lake. Officials contacted had no evidence to verify that rumor.
Heavy rains have caused multiple docks on the lake to become submerged. County staff cleared out some drainage canals last week and water from Crooked Lake is starting to flow into Lake Clinch, in Frostproof.
Contact Charles A. Baker III at firstname.lastname@example.org.