People near a proposed reclaimed water facility in Estero say it isn’t happening in my backyard. Lee County is looking to build a new facility to accommodate future growth, but neighbors aren’t pleased about it.
It’s no secret that Lee County is a growing area, and with more people, there’s naturally more flushing. So a plan to make that wastewater useful is imperative.
“It’s something that we’re always trying to get ahead of,” Pam Keyes, the utilities director for Lee County, said.
The county said this kind of facility produces a “higher quality” of water out of wastewater by removing nutrients. But not everyone is on board with the project. Serge Thomas, an associate professor at FGCU’s water school, lives about two miles from where the facility would be and has many concerns.
“The first thing is that I think it’s a wrong place because it’s, again, at basically a branching of different roads and wildlife corridors. That’s one thing. Second, you’re bringing in big infrastructure, which means more people will move into the area, which means more degradation down the road,” Thomas said.
Marsha Ellis lives near where it would be built and worries the land cannot handle such a project.
“The land that they’re putting this on is an important resource to help manage the flooding in my area with real downstream consequences for all of Estero,” Ellis said.
Ellis said that longstanding neighbors in the area feel they’re being disrespected.
“We are under threat of having 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of people move out east corkscrew and their waste being pumped more than 20 miles into our location inland. It’s bad practice,” Ellis said.
The county said they’re listening and maintaining the quality of life is essential to them, which they said is the project’s goal.
“We are required to follow the same rules as anybody else to ensure that we’re not impacting water quality or the environment,” Keyes said.
Construction on the new facility is expected to start in 2025.