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Incredible….This type of discharge requires a NPDES discharge permit, however Cloister del Mar does not have such a permit; confirmed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
On July 29, 2017, a disturbing find was brought to my attention by independent research videographer and diver Michael Culotta. Michael is the founder of the volunteer based non-profit, I See Sea (http://www.iseesea.org/) which maps out and videos coral reefs over time.
While out snorkeling, south of the inlet in Boca Raton, Michael found a pipe, about 40 feet offshore, pumping hot water into our ocean, see video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjfwy9OjPuo. This property is Cloister del Mar, an ocean front condo building located at 1180 South Ocean Blvd and 1200 S Ocean Blvd in Boca Raton. By further investigating, ISeeSea.Org, discovered that the 1200 S Ocean Building was pumping 90 plus degree well water onshore, which in turn, runs off into the ocean. See video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xG-ygYCpWrg.
These two pipes are pumping their hot waste well water, from their AC heat exchanger systems, into our ocean – a practice known as ‘pump and dump.’ Typically, buildings have a return well drilled deep into the ground in which hot waste water from air conditioner systems are pumped into. However, this condo building does not. Whether the return well is broken, or was never installed properly is unknown. It is known that in 2016, this same pipe pumping hot water into our ocean was repaired (by whom is unknown). ISeeSea.Org states that this pipe from 1200 is exposed now by beach dredging. For a further, explanation please watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/embed/acPqonXkOwE
While this should be illegal, some cases are permitted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The permit would not entail pumping water into the ocean, but regularly testing the outflow to ensure it was environmentally safe. The buildings of Cloister del Mar are not permitted, verified by FLDEP. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection was notified of this illegal pumping and dumping over two weeks ago, and the City was notified on August 3, 2017.
The permit, which does not exist, would enable regulations for mandatory water testing at the outflows and surrounding areas at the Cloister del Mar buildings. However, without a permit, there is no reason to test the water, as no one is accountable for it. On August 6, 2017 ISeeSea.Org tested the water outflowing from these pipes. (see testing results at the bottom of this article). The alarming results came back with phosphate levels above 3.0! Phosphate levels considered safe are .1 or below. If someone or something drinks this water, it would result in hospitalization. With numbers this high, their well is no longer secure. This would deim Cloister del Mar’s well contaminated, by the clean water act of 1972.
Not only is this environmentally destructive, as it raises current ocean temperatures, kills coral reefs, destroys inshore organisms, causes algae blooms, destroys tropical fish nests, etc. This illegal dumping creates a whirlpool, pulling everything towards the pump that is in the water. This vortex could suck a small child or animal into it. See video here of pulling out trash around the pipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFyTR5i1kSs. Anything that comes in surrounding contact with this whirlpool, gets sucked to the bottom. At the very least, the City needs to put a sign up onshore that states, “Danger, stay away from this onshore hole.” Does an accidental death have to happen in order to shut this pump and dump operation down and gain attention?
It should also be noted that each pipe pumps over 1 million gallons of water into our ocean per day. Every day that the City and State allow this pumping, our ocean gets contaminated by 2 million gallons of water!!
The City Council has been actively working on contacting FLDEP regarding this issue. A special thanks to Scott Singer for keeping on top of this situation. As of today, we were contacted by The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, stating that 1) “they might send someone to check the water quality, and 2) they are exploring options before approaching the two buildings of Cloister del Mar.”
We request that the City of Boca Raton take care of this. These two condo buildings are in the City of Boca Raton, and are causing a health hazard to the citizens. If City Staff cares about the well being of its residents, we recommend shutting this project down. With the State dragging their feet, who knows how much dirty water will be pumped into our waterways.
Videos in case you need further understanding:
https://www.youtube.com/embed/acPqonXkOwE – Explanation
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xG-ygYCpWrg – 1200 S Ocean
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjfwy9OjPuo – 1180 S Ocean underwater
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFyTR5i1kSs – 8/5/17 at 1200 S Ocean onshore
RESPONSE FROM THE CITY:
From: Grippo, Daniel
Sent: Friday, August 4, 2017 3:37 PM
To: Jessica Gray
Thank you for sharing your concerns with the City of Boca Raton staff. As the Municipal Services Director, this was forwarded to me to provide you with a response.
I believe what you have witnessed is likely coming from an HVAC drainage line or other potable water system flushing process line located in the vicinity of the Cloisters. The Cloisters project was built in 1966, before any substantial land development or drainage regulations were in place. In more recent years, the EPA has placed much more stringent regulations on stormwater and other utility or infrastructure system waters being sent directly into large water bodies via the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process. If these buildings were constructed today, such outfalls would not be permitted. This is most likely their flushing line that was permitted in that era for firefighting water or perhaps other facility water services as I mentioned, a flush line for HVAC maintenance that extends out from the facility. We know with certainty that this is not a City water, wastewater, nor City managed stormwater line outfall.
In advance of some of our prior beach renourishment projects, our consultant actually recommended to have this pipe (or pipes) extended further out seaward to allow for proper sand burial. To date, I do not see that they have followed through with that recommendation.
In the meantime, I am going to forward your concern to the local Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) office for their review. The building department can verify, but my recollection is that the City has no permit issued or applicable local code that is violated, therefore no means of enforcement. However, FDEP may review this information and decide whether there are any impacts as a result, which they could then address directly with the property owner.
Thank you for contacting the City. If we find anything else out, we will share it with you. In the meantime, if you see anything else that may look suspicious, please don’t hesitate to contact your City staff so that we can further investigate.
If my staff finds anything else out next week when they return, we will share that information as well.
Dan Grippo, P.E., CEM | Director
City of Boca Raton, Municipal Services Department
201 W. Palmetto Park Road • Boca Raton, FL 33432