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Polluted discharges at Cypress Creek draw attention
Swiftmud officials say they will take legal action against those building the new mall.
By CHUIN-WEI YAP, Times Staff Writer
Published February 1, 2008
WESLEY CHAPEL - Environmental officials are moving to punish Cypress Creek Town Center for a spate of polluted discharges into the creek.
In an e-mail sent Tuesday, Richard McCleery, ombudsman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, said the matter is being referred to the agency's general counsel for legal action.
Developer Richard E. Jacobs Group is building a 1-million-square-foot mall at State Road 56 and Interstate 75. Environmentalists have kept the construction under close scrutiny, even as they sued in federal court to block the mall.
In September, the environmentalists uncovered a case of illegal construction runoff that had polluted the creek's protected waters. The district, commonly known as Swiftmud, cited the mall builders and ordered measures to better protect the creek.
It didn't seem to work.
Interviewed last week, Robert Lue, the district's regulatory director based in Brooksville, said a floodgate - he called it a "discharge structure" - failed when contractors were moving massive amounts of turbid water across mall property into a pond on the west side of the property, next to the creek.
"We told them it was unacceptable," Lue said. "We are taking them through the compliance process. They were not paying attention. ... We're very disappointed, and we told them so. The property owner said they were very disappointed in the contractor."
A mall spokesman wasn't available for comment Thursday.
Swiftmud's spokeswoman, Robyn Hanke, said the matter was sent Thursday to the agency's lawyers, who will verify the alleged violations and decide what fines or other enforcement action Swiftmud will seek.
The letter demanded that the builder correct the discharges and submit a repair plan and construction schedule.
Lue said they've ordered the builder to brick up part of the discharge structure to improve its workability. The structure is designed to let unpolluted water run slowly and evenly into the abutting wetlands.