Environmental Group Sues City of Marathon, Fla. for Dumping Sewage into the Florida Keys

On Tuesday, Friends of the Lower Keys (FOLKS) filed a complaint in the Southern District of Florida against the City of Marathon, Florida for allegedly discharging sewage into the waters of the Florida Keys without an appropriate federal permit.

The City of Marathon uses shallow sewage wells to dispose of their waste ranging from 60 to 120 feet underground. However, there is “highly porous limestone geology known as karst” that makes up the majority of the keys with small holes and tunnels that bring the sewage from deep underground up to the surface waters inhabited by marine life and used recreationally. Because of this, FOLKS claimed that Marathon is violating the Clean Waters Act (CWA) as it is raising the pollutant levels past what is acceptable; also, Marathon would be violating the Endangered Species Act since the “sewage pollution harms threatened and endangered species of fish, corals, turtles, and other animals.” Members of FOLKS also claimed that they no longer can enjoy the beaches and waters of the Florida Keys due to the higher levels of pollution. 

According to the complaint, Marathon does not have a National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System (NPDES) permit so they cannot discharge their sewage from their shallow sewage wells or wastewater treatment plans into the waters of the Florida Keys. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection found that nearby water quality was “impaired” through “rapid migration of pollution.” Thus, FOLKS are suing on the counts of a violation of Sections 301 and 402 of the Clean Waters Act for unlawful discharge of pollutants and causing or contributing to non-attainment of water quality standards, and a violation of the Endangered Species Act for the taking of threatened and endangered species. 

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that Marathon has and is continuing to violate the Clean Waters Act and Endangered Species Act, injunctive relief enjoining Marathon from continuing to discharge sewage without an NPDES permit, civil damages for each day they continue to operate without a permit, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief. The plaintiffs are represented by Mark Migdal & Hayden.