Manatee County protests state's shift on groundwater protection program

MANATEE — A state effort to shift a Manatee County groundwater protection program to a neighboring county drew a sharp protest Tuesday from the Manatee County Commission.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection informed county officials that the task of inspecting underground storage tanks containing pollutants would now fall to employees of neighboring Hillsborough County, according to a letter signed by Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator.

“We were informed that the tasks previously conducted by Manatee County staff would be delegated to Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission staff, working in Manatee County,” the letter said.

“This is unprecedented, and creates an enormous amount of logistical and managerial issues,” said the letter, the content of which was approved by county commissioners at a meeting Tuesday, pending their attorney’s review.

County officials said their Pollutant Storage Tank program has had a continual contract with the state since 1989, and has operated successfully for decades.

But now, the state is declining to renew its contract with Manatee County, they said.