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Fri Sep 15, 2017, 07:38 AM

FL/Irma - Bare Minimum Total Of 28 Million Gallons Of Sewage Spilled In 22 Counties


Quartz’ apparent hyperbole turned out to be an understatement. Pollution reports submitted to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection show that, due to power outages and flooding caused by Irma, human waste has been spilling into streets, residences, and waterways across the entire state. At the time of this article’s publication, at least 113 “Public Notices of Pollution” had been submitted to the DEP. Combined, those discharge reports showed more than 28 million gallons of treated and untreated sewage released in 22 counties. The total amount is surely much more; at least 43 of those reports listed either an “unknown” or “ongoing” amount of waste released, and new reports continue to roll in—sometimes as many as a dozen per hour.

In other words, Irma was a literal shitstorm. But it’s no laughing matter. Sewage spills pose a major threat to public health, and they’re likely to become more common due to two increasingly connected crises facing America: an aging infrastructure and climate change.

The spills in Florida range from benign to revolting. In some cases, a few hundred gallons of raw sewage burst from manholes into non-flooded areas and were quickly cleaned up. But in Miami, the city’s South District Wastewater Treatment Plant reported a six-million-gallon sewage spill that reached Biscane Bay, a state aquatic preserve. While the report said the area was cleaned and disinfected, it also says the public was not notified and the sewage was not recovered. In Seminole County, north of Orlando, a sewer overflowed for six hours, spilling two million gallons. More than 300,000 gallons flowed into Stevenson Creek, which the Tampa Bay Times reports is already “one of Pinellas County’s most polluted bodies of water.” The St. John’s River in Jacksonville has seen at least 130,000 gallons of sewage released into its tributaries. And in Volusia County, which holds Daytona Beach, a two-million-gallon spill of treated sewage has seen “no cleanup efforts” so far, according to a notice.


To some extent, sewage overflows are to be expected during big storms. “Those who know how these systems work understand that when this amount of water comes into the system, there’s absolutely nothing that can to be done except to let the water go,” Harwood said. “If we engineered the plants to accommodate water overflows from a hurricane, it would cost so much that people would be very angry. It’s a trade-off between uncommon events when they occur that pose a health risk, versus having a really expensive overcapacity that’s not used 99 percent of the time.” At the same time, the nation’s sewage infrastructure—particularly Florida’s—is in worse shape than it should be, making it more susceptible to accidents and overflows. As The New York Times reported last week, “Much of the state’s infrastructure is now nearing the end of its useful life.” Last year, the EPA said $17 billion would be needed over the next two decades just to maintain Florida’s existing systems. And that’s nothing compared to the $271 billion the EPA says is needed to maintain and improve the aging, crumbling wastewater infrastructure across the country. What’s more, climate change is slowly making the problem worse—not only because of more intense rainfall, but because rising seas cause more leaks from coastal septic systems



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Reply FL/Irma - Bare Minimum Total Of 28 Million Gallons Of Sewage Spilled In 22 Counties (Original post)
hatrack Sep 2017 OP
BeyondGeography Sep 2017 #1

Response to hatrack (Original post)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 08:10 AM

1. Deferred maintenance

The two favorite words of cash-strapped governments everywhere.

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