FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   

Contact:   Rick Diaz, Lee County Utilities
                (941) 479-8181



FORT MYERS, Fla. (March 12, 2002) – Lee County has received the go-ahead from the Gateway Services District Board to ultimately purchase and operate Gateway’s wastewater treatment plant – a move that will provide a much-needed wastewater treatment system for the expansion of Southwest Florida International Airport and growth in the surrounding airport area. 

The Gateway Services District – a statutory special-purpose district – provides retail potable water and wastewater treatment services to the Gateway Community east of Fort Myers.  The district will continue to purchase its water from Lee County Utilities and own and maintain the district’s water and wastewater distribution systems. 

The county will purchase the wastewater treatment plant and the 47-acre site it sits on for $4.8 million, and provide wholesale wastewater treatment services to the district.  The Gateway Wastewater Treatment Plant has a capacity of one million gallons per day and currently is processing about 300,000 gallons a day. 

Ownership of the plant and site will allow the county to connect Southwest Florida International Airport into the system and provides the county with an existing site to expand the plant in the future up to a capacity of five-or-six million gallons per day.  This keeps the county from having to purchase a “raw” site and zone the property for the construction and operation of a new wastewater treatment facility.  The airport currently is undergoing a $386-million expansion. 

Southwest Florida International Airport had been using a “package” treatment facility to process its wastewater, but since 1998 has been under a consent order to connect to a central system because the plant wasn’t meeting minimum standards set by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 

The county’s Utilities Division serves 48,500 water and 33,600 sewer customers in portions of North, East and South Lee County.  The county operates five wastewater-treatment plants – Fort Myers Beach, Fiesta Village, Waterway Estates, Highpoint and Pine Island – with a total of 10-million gallons of capacity per day, and five water-treatment plants – College Parkway, Corkscrew, Green Meadows, Olga and Waterway Estates – with a combined 26-million gallons of capacity per day.  The Utilities Division has an annual operating budget of about $27 million.