Florida has sewage everywhere as a result of IRMA — Dangerous

BY ANNETA GRIFFEE / SEPTEMBER 13, 2017 /

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma not only brought destruction and flooding, but now impacted cities have another, more deadly, problem on their hands – the flood waters are toxic, disease-filled, and life-threatening.

Hurricane Irma overwhelmed water treatment and sewage treatment facilities, causing them to lose power, become submerged, and overflow. As of Tuesday evening, over 9 million gallons of wastewater and raw sewage has flowed out into the floodwaters, throughout city streets and canals. An already aged infrastructure needing updates has been stretched to the limit.

Nathan Gardner-Andrews, of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, said sewage and water treatment plants are normally designed to twice their rated capacity, but, “There’s no sewer system in the world that can be built that’s completely leak proof.”

“When you get some of these rain events and you’re talking four to six to eight inches of rain in an hour, the engineering is such that you cannot build a system to hold that capacity,” Andrews said.

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) had already estimated last year that the nation’s treatment plants and wastewater pipes needs at least $271 billion annually to maintain its infrastructure.

Already in Florida, there is a stench in the air, even when actual waste and garbage is not visible.

At least 1.6 million gallons of wastewater have been released into a nearby creek from a treatment facility in Clearwater, Florida, caused when a power line broke.

Electrical outages in St. Petersburg and Orlando also caused the pumps to stop running, spilling at least 500,000 gallons of waste into the communities.

In Miramar, Florida, a pipeline broke, spewing sewage out into a parkway. Another power outage at a Miami-area wastewater treatment plant caused 6 million gallons of sewage to flood out into Biscayne Bay.

Rising floodwaters also compromised a pretreatment water system in Middleburg, Florida Tuesday, releasing 250,000 gallons of untreated liquid, as workers frantically tried to contain the spill by blocking off culverts and set up pump stations to pull the water back out of the ditches so it could be treated.

Officials are warning residents to boil all water before drinking it. But the problem extends far beyond just drinking water. “When untreated water or raw sewage is spilled, it can deliver toxic chemicals from roads, E. coli from human waste and other pathogens that have the potential to cause viruses, parasitic infections, rashes and other health conditions,” Bloomberg noted in a report on Florida.

The problem is compounded by the fact that wastewater treatment facilities are often built in low-lying areas, near whatever river or waterway they discharge into. Under normal conditions, that works well, but in areas along a coast are at a greater risk, due to rising sea levels.

President Trump travels to Florida on Thursday.