Lee County agrees to bail out Fort Myers water woes

·3 min read
More water is flowing to Fort Myers, as Lee County makes a deal sell 1.5 million gallons per day to help residents have experienced a major reduction in water pressure
More water is flowing to Fort Myers, as Lee County makes a deal sell 1.5 million gallons per day to help residents have experienced a major reduction in water pressure

Lee County officials have agreed to come to the aid of Fort Myers residents who have become increasingly inpatient with low water pressure in their homes.

A tentative agreement means the county will sell the city as much as 1.5 million gallons of water per day through a 46-year-old connection at Ortiz Avenue and State Road 82. Water was expected to begin flowing from the Lee Utilities system to parts of the city water pipe network once approval is in hand from state agencies.

Several residents told their tales at a council meeting last week, some emotional in describing how the Southwest Florida retirement home they bought after decades of saving was nearly unlivable because of the lack of water.

Fort Myers will get a monthly bill for $3.84 per 1,000 gallons of water, the county's standard bulk water rate. If the full allocation of 1.5 millon gallons is used, the city's water bill from the county will come to nearly $173,000 per month.

More: Low water pressure plagues Fort Myers; new facilities and a county hookup may help

From September 2021: After boil water notice lifted for much of Fort Myers, council member apologizes for city's response

County Manager Roger Desjarlais signed a contract with the city that will require ratification by county commissioners at its meeting Tuesday. Fort Myers City Council made the formal request for help with the water crisis on the recommendation of City Manager Marty Lawing.

Mayor Kevin Anderson said Lawing went to work on the problem as complaints started coming in from residents, some of whom reported being unable to draw sufficient water for a shower or cooking.

"As soon as we started receiving the complaints, (Lawing) started working on it; of course it took a while to realize the extent of it, there's no easy solution," Anderson said Thursday.

Construction crew works to improve water service in January 2019.
Construction crew works to improve water service in January 2019.

Lee County schools also agreed to help the city water crisis, and will allow the city to install wells on school district property at the Pottorf Elementary and Dunbar Middle schools.

The city/county water connection has been upgraded several times since it was installed in 1977. Some prep work is required before the water can begin to flow.

Fort Myers and Lee County have water purification systems that use different chemicals to treat the water. Those processes that are not compatible.

The city has agreed to make sure that its water will be separated from the county system and will scour the connection between the two systems so that the different chemicals do not mix.

Ongoing issue: Fort Myers has a water pollution problem; state environmental agency promises penalties, protections

Areas such as the Reflection Isles and Paseo communities between Six Mile Cypress Parkway and Interstate 75 will use the county water.

Much of the dramatic drop in water pressure has been reported in and near Ward 6, in the southeast area of the city, which has experienced explosive growth through development of new residential communities over the past year.

"As of right now it looks like that's the main area that's affected," Anderson said.

But work to increase water pressure in areas added to the water system in recent years may highlight potential problems with an aging pipe network.

"Obviously, in older parts of the city some of the piping has not been upgraded, the pipes get smaller and smaller with the build-up, "We've got 65-67% of our utility lines that have been upgraded, it's a lengthy, expensive process."

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Fort Myers water crisis: Lee County comes to the rescue