The City of Apopka is once again in the news, this time for ongoing, serious problems at it’s aging water treatment facility. Anuvia Plant Nutrients in Zellwood Florida, produces fertilizer utilizing a new method that produces biosolids as a byproduct that must be disposed of. The City of Apopka, after a series of discussions entered into a partnership with Anuvia to accept the waste and process it through the water treatment facility. Agreements were drawn up, over $1 million was paid by Anuvia, permits were signed and all went well for a time.
In December of 2016, it was reported the Apopka Wastewater treatment facility was running into possible environmental problems. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection got involved and in January made a report of the various issues at the plant. Now, aside from technical and environmental violations, note was also made of some plant management issues, as well as the age of the facility itself. The City was fined by the Florida DEP for these violations and ordered to clean up the mess. A clean-up company was called in to begin the cleanup of the bio-solids and removal of sludge from the facility, at a cost of about $100,000.00 to the City. I realize this is a vast oversimplification of the situation but the exact timetable is not the question. The City handling all this is most troubling.
A 3 page fact sheet put out by the City regarding this situation, dated 2/14/17, provides an excellent summary of the issues at hand. Two bullet points in the Fact sheet relate to Anuvia and the future of their relationship with the City. One point reads, “The City considered shutting Anuvia off from our system, but determined that doing so would significantly affect their business operations”. Another point acknowledges that while there were no violations of the original permit by Anuvia, perhaps the “company’s original discharge permit limits were not stringent enough. These discharge permits are being renegotiated” and new limits might be necessary. Nonetheless, “Apopka is committed to being a good business partner. Shutting Anuvia down completely would have hurt their business, and prevented a proper evaluation of the problem.”
Fast forward to Friday March 3rd, when in fact Anuvia was presented an updated permit by the City for consideration, as the existing permit would be expiring on Monday March 6th. THEN, on Monday March 6th, Anuvia is served a cease and desist order from the City, forcing the company to suspend their operations. A meeting between the City, Anuvia and the Florida DEP yielded little and the company will be shut down at least another 10 days.
Questions that arise from all this: First, what exactly happened between Friday March 3rd and Monday the 6th to cause the City to go from extending a new proposed permit to issuing a Cease and Desist order. City Administrator Glenn Irby stated, “The plant went into an upset condition”, but did not elaborate what that meant. So, I’m asking, what does this mean exactly? If Apopka is such a good business partner, as stated in the fact sheet from 2-14-17, why did they pull the rug out from under Anuvia, resulting in a shut down of operations, which the City stated would not happen? Whose responsibility was it to not only see if the original permit limits could be met, but to continuously monitor these limits from the start and to warn of any potential problems or risks to the Facility? Exactly how much money will this policy reversal on the part of Apopka cost Anuvia? I’m willing to bet millions.. If this is how Apopka is willing to treat their good business partner Anuvia, how will the City treat other good business partners? Especially with the explosion of growth going on all around our City? Can or should anyone trust what our City leaders tell them? The City taxpayers deserve to know the truth behind this Cease and Desist order which comes only from the very top.
So where does that leave Anuvia? Scrambling, looking for a business partner that won’t sucker punch them. By all accounts, Anuvia did not violate the terms of the original permit, and if the limits were not strong enough, whose fault is that? In the end, this whole situation could result in lawsuits, costing the City taxpayer millions to settle. This could also cost the City the good will of potential new businesses offering the kinds of good paying jobs leaders say they want. All because the left hand does not know what the other left hand is doing.