On Thursday, Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis responded to a REDBROWARD report on his attempt to tie the city’s sewage issue to the mysterious appearance of green algae in some local waterways. Last week, REDBROWARD reported how Trantalis’ political bombshell blew up in his face at the December 5th City Commission conference meeting. During the public meeting, Commissioner Trantalis, a candidate in the upcoming mayoral elections, told Mayor Jack Seiler and his fellow commissioners that Broward County officials determined the mysterious green algae was caused by the city’s sewage problems.
Trantalis said, “The County came back with its report and it’s not what we were told!” Trantalis referred to a November 30th email from City Manager Lee Feldman. This email stated the algae was likely a result from “unprecedented rain events” washing nutrients into the canal system. Trantalis claimed the County report proved Feldman wrong. “This past week…results were disclosed to us. In fact, their information is that the green algae came not from nutrients but from fecal chloroform, E. coli and tetracoccus bacteria.” Trantalis said.
“It’s coming from all the sewage that’s coming from our system that has been poured into our canals,” Trantalis said. “It’s more intense and dangerous for our community.”
Despite Trantalis’ prosecutorial tone, he was wrong about the report.
After Mayor Jack Seiler questioned the source of Trantalis’ information, he admitted the documented he presented to the Commission was written by his aide. Then, Dr. Nancy Gassman, City Of Fort Lauderdale Assistant Public Works Director, stated she once ran the County lab that tested Fort Lauderdale waterways.
Gassman said the report Trantalis submitted tested water quality only and the presence of fecal bacteria was unrelated to the green algae.
Gassman stated the report did not back up Trantalis’ claims. She stated previous tests on the algae showed it was not harmful to humans. Gassman stated only the State of Florida conducts tests on algae.
Trantalis was forced to backtrack. He stated he was merely bringing information to his fellow commissioners.
DEAN TRANTALIS RESPONDS TO REDBROWARD
On Thursday, Dean Trantalis wrote posted a comment on the original REDBROWARD report. He wrote:
Check out the County’s report submitted to the City Commission this week. It firmly supports the contention that we have excessive levels of fecal matter in our waterways and canals, in one case 18,000 units in excess of normal standards. Sorry , this is not grandstanding, these are the facts. The algae just didn’t come from a robust use of Scott’s Turfbuilder as staff earlier suggested. If we don’t admit we have a problem, we cannot even begin to address it. I accept your apology for wrongly portraying the situation.
REDBROWARD offered no apology and we stand behind our original report. After verifying that Trantalis did in fact post the comment, REDBROWARD reminded the Commissioner that Dr. Gassman said their was no causal link between fecal matter and green algae. We stated, “You may want voters to believe leaky sewer is cause, but you have no proof. The classic ‘assuming facts not in evidence.'”
Trantalis responded via email.
Commissioners are given an opportunity to speak about matters that concern them at our Conference Meeting which precedes the regular meeting. I received numerous complaints from my constituents who live in the Isles about the green, thick substances found in the canals in front of their homes. At first I inquired with the City Manager a number of weeks ago and he said it was a natural occurrence and probably as a result of high nutrient run-off from the yards of the homeowners. I was suspicious of that answer and my inquiry sparked the attention of the county who did their own analysis. I was given a preliminary report by the county suggesting that we have unusually high fecal substances in our waterways. Whether or not the algae came from the fecal substances, the discussion brought out the discovery of the exceptionally high pollution in our waters. But because no expert was willing to make the causal connection between the feces and the algae, at the very least it was my opinion that we should initiate steps to see why the fecal pollution was so high.
The rest of the Commission decided that because there was no definitive connection between the algae and the pollution that there would be no further inquiry into the source of the pollution. I believe that the algae occurrence was a wake-up call to the sewer-like conditions that surround many of our homes along the waterways. Instead, the Commission decided it was a publicity stunt geared towards pumping up my candidacy. This is typical of them when they try to avert responsibility. Please do not fall for that.
Of course the presence of fecal material and e-coli in Fort Lauderdale waterways is worrisome. However, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts reminded the Commission that fecal matter was a serious issue twenty years ago. As Fort Lauderdale Police Chief, Roberts said he lead the crackdown on houseboats dumping raw sewage into the canals. Roberts and Commissioner Romney Rogers said finding the true source of the problem should be done before jumping to conclusions.
Dr. Gassman reminded Trantalis the City already advises residents to not swim in the inland waterways. She said if a high level of contamination was found they would close off the area.
BRUCE ROBERTS QUESTIONS TRANTALIS’ VERACITY
When asked to comment on Trantalis’ response, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts did not hold back.
Roberts told REDBROWARD, “[Trantalis’] attempt to continue to sidestep the true science just further casts doubt on his veracity.”
Voters will deliver their verdict in January 2018.