County joins opposition to composting facility

The St. Lucie County commissioners are taking sides against a proposed biosolid processing facility on Minute Maid Road they fear could contaminate the Indian River Lagoon.

Sunbreak Farms plans to develop a facility that will convert biosolids into fertilizer on an 81-acre portion of its 6,580-acre property straddling the Indian River County line, state records show.

Sunbreak Farms anticipates producing up to 80,000 tons of fertilizer that will be dumped in 2-acre piles alongside 40 farm fields, state records show.

At St. Lucie County’s request, the South Florida Water Management District required Sunbreak Farms to provide a water quality monitoring plan to ensure no contaminants flow into the lagoon, records show.

Sunbreak Farms declined the request and filed a petition on June 11 asking a state administrative judge to order the district to permit the construction of a stormwater drainage system on the property without a water quality monitoring plan.

In response, the St. Lucie County commissioners voted unanimously on July 2 to intervene in the case on behalf of the South Florida Water Management District.

“This board has been very strong on its efforts to protect the Indian River Lagoon, our waterways and our citizens,” said Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky.

The Indian River County Commission and the St. Johns River Water Management District already intervened in the case because of concerned about pollutants flowing into the Indian River Lagoon.

County Attorney Dan McIntyre said the water quality monitoring plan was recommended by the CDM Smith engineering firm after studying the permit application for the biosolid processing facility.

“There was no monitoring plan provided by Sunbreak to determine the effect of their operation on the Indian River Lagoon,” McIntyre said. “The county is very interested in this whole process because of the potential impact on the Indian River Lagoon.”

“We have the ability now to help the district,” McIntyre told the commissioners. “Our intentions are to utilize CDM to continue to assist in that role.”

Sunbreak Farms argued it received a domestic wastewater facility permit for the project from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which is the ruling authority, not the water management district. The company also claimed no water is discharged from the property.

In addition, Sunbreak Farms argued its adherence to best management practices in its farming operations entitles the company to conduct activities “outside the scope of the DEP permit.”

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