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Swiftmud sends another letter to Greg Harris

Published:   |   Updated: December 15, 2013 at 07:05 AM

SEBRING - Southwest Florida Water Management District is just trying to "gig" Greg Harris with its latest violation order.

"They don't think they have my attention," said Harris, who owns Country Club Utilities. The subdivision west of Sebring was hit with $84,000 in proposed fines and costs, and Harris has agreed to a consent order after years of battling with the district over pumping more water from the aquifer than his permit allows.

Harris reached an understanding with Swiftmud in September, and his engineer filed a written plan on Oct. 23. However, on Dec. 2, Harris received a response from Amy Wells Brennan, the water board's senior attorney. Unaccounted for water loss was 14 percent in 201, due to "constant flushing that was necessary to remove the hydrogen sulfide from the back up well during the six-month new-well process."

Country Club's engineer didn't expect this to be an issue in the future, but the district wanted to know how often the utility would audit its water usage, what maintenance the utility performs, and how much water loss those activities would save. The rest of the three-page letter also picked at water audit, conservation education activities, calibrating the water meters, the percentage of water used to define "high users," how it evaluates high users, whether the district will adopt an inverted rate structure, and a schedule of when the utility will be in compliance.

"It ain't me that's using the water," Harris said. "All I'm doing it pumping it out of the ground."

Harris said in September that he has talked to Country Club Estates customers who overwatered their lawns "until I was blue in the face... I've said all along that we are going to get fined."

"All this is part of the non-compliance that they gigged me with," said Harris, who also chairs the Highlands County commissioners. "Now they are taking exception at the conservation plan.

"We gave them that data," Harris said, speaking of his engineer, a former Swiftmud employee who is now employed by a private firm.

"The bottom line is that we're getting close to selling to the City of Sebring," Harris said. "The second that happens, all this goes away."



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