Plumbing company looking to treat human waste on farmland changes plans after backlash

Company makes costly changes, hopes for support

HILLSBOROUGH CO., Fla. - A plumbing company looking to treat human waste near the Little Manatee River is now changing its plans after intense community backlash.

Chris' Plumbing wants to treat up to 100,000 gallons per day of human waste and grease on a farmland between 301 and State Road 674. However, opponents say it is far too close for comfort to the wetlands. Meanwhile, the company's newly hired expert says there's no danger.

For the first time we're hearing from Chris' Plumbing.While the owner of the same name refused an on-camera interview he did allow ABC Action News to speak with his environmental scientist.

For months the company has been tweaking a permit that would allow them to bring waste from porta potties and septic tanks to a quiet farmland.

"When you think of a porta potty you think well that's kinda gross," said Dale Meryman of Meryman Environmental, "And that's the story that's being put out there."

Meryman has been hired as part of a nearly $1 million push to change public perception on this project. We asked him directly: "Is this safe?"

"Yes, it will be safe," He responded.

He tells us the new changes are big. Unlike their original plan, they won't bury the waste. Instead they will truck out the solids to a county landfill.The leftover water gets a basic chlorination treatment and goes into evaporation ponds. Around the wetlands, they'll build a ditch to catch run-off.

"I would say it's obviously going to end up in the river," disputed Mariella Smith.

She's leading the fight against the project and also lives and plays along the river. She's afraid, if approved, her neighbors and the wildlife around them will get sick.

"They decided to change the plan because it wasn't going to work the way they originally proposed it so they changed it," she said, "But the plan is still terrible."

Smith claims neither the size of the ditch nor the level of treatment on the waste-water is enough.

"Don't buy into the hype that a microbe of bacteria on this site is going to travel 25 miles into the gulf of mexico and affect the dolphins.That's just ridiculous," said Meryman.

Smith has just one suggestion to end the controversy.

"The simplest solution would be for Chris' Plumbing to take this project some other place," she said.

If you'd like to voice your concerns or support. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday November 20 at 6 p.m.

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