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Loggerhead Marinelife Center's CEO, chairman address water quality issues, sudden resignations

Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach on April 14, 2022.jpg
Posted at 3:55 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 18:27:43-04

JUNO BEACH, Fla. — How long will the Loggerhead Marinelife Center continue to operate without any turtles?

Both the CEO and chairman of the board of the facility admitted to WPTV Contact 5 they have no idea.

WPTV Contact 5 Investigator Dave Bohman sat down with both officials Wednesday, a week after the mass resignations of its hospital-veterinary staff.

They conceded Loggerhead has been plagued by problems related to a multi-million-dollar expansion that hasn’t gone very smoothly.

26 brand new tanks to house sea turtles, and not a single one houses a loggerhead at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

"We’re working through some staffing issues. We’re working through some facility issues," said Dr. Kyle Van Houtan, the CEO at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. "But as soon as we get those things resolved in the coming weeks, we hope to have those turtles back."

"Weeks, months? When are we going to see turtles?" Bohman asked.

"Really as soon as possible," Van Houtan said.

Van Houtan cannot put a date on when the turtle rehab facility will have animals to treat.

Water quality issues, specifically a pumping system that brings in water without enough salt, continues to plague the facility, as does a vet hospital that will soon have no staffers as four veterinary techs and an acting chief vet have all handed in their resignations.

"How would you describe morale?" Bohman asked Loggerhead Board of Directors Chairman Brian Waxman.

"Challenging right now," Waxman said.

Waxman recently met with volunteers and staffers and was told conditions for workers and turtles is poor.

"It’s difficult to hear that stuff. But it’s the truth and we’re looking for that," Waxman said.

And then there’s the money. After a $14 million expansion project swelled to a $26 million, Loggerhead is turtle-less.

Where did the money go?

Van Houtan and Waxman said it was used to pay for extra turtle tanks and amenities and to offset the higher costs of building materials.

But donors also spent hundreds of thousands for naming rights to a new state-of-the-art operating room, an expanded lab for research, and an imaging and diagnostic facility, none of which has been built.

"We have been alerted by several staff members that there is a concern out there," Waxman said. "Everything that has been dedicated to a naming opportunity has been built or will be built and named appropriately."

"When?" Bohman asked.

"Within the next two years," Waxman answered.

The facility hopes to have turtles to treat and release here much sooner. But it has struggled to keep water quality at acceptable levels and has to hire a new veterinary hospital team after its current team resigned simultaneously.

"We’re trying to attract and retain top talent so we can keep this facility and this mission going," Van Houtan said.

WPTV Contact 5 asked for the financial records that shows how the millions were spent. Both Van Houtan and Waxman tell us they will show us the records.

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