In Irma’s wake, millions of gallons of sewage and wastewater are bubbling up across Florida
In Irma’s wake, millions of gallons of sewage and wastewater are bubbling up across Florida.
First Hurricane Irma blew through.
The spill was one of scores of discharges of poorly treated wastewater and raw sewage into streets, lakes, rivers and neighborhoods, described in pollution filings that poured into the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
While runoff from chemical plants and oil refineries dirtied waters along the Texas Gulf Coast, sewage and other wastewater has posed the most immediate problem in Florida, raising the risk of disease, triggering algae blooms that can suffocate fish and other marine creatures, and complicating cleanup days after Hurricane Irma moved north.
Now the hurricanes threaten to further amplify this problem.” Because of its flat terrain, Florida relies heavily on wastewater lift stations with pumps to move sewage.
In 2012, the state required that pumping stations be able to withstand 25-year floods, or in some cases 10-year floods.
But after Irma, electricity has been in short supply, with millions of customers cut off along with the sewage pump stations.
And the area’s sewage systems also are old, low-lying and unable to handle the flow of water an Irma-like storm brings.
In an neighborhood of Orlando, flooding caused a filter system to overflow and about 10,000 gallons of partly treated effluent bubbled up through the manhole covers.
A sewer backed up into six homes and the sewage ran into storm water ponds.