Hurricane Ian causes millions of gallons of wastewater to spill into waterways

(UC) — Hurricane Ian heavily impacted sewage and wastewater infrastructure throughout Florida, leading to multi-million-gallon spills in multiple bodies of water.

In Melbourne, Florida, the storm allowed sewage overflow to seep through manholes, travel through the streets and spill 7.2 million gallons into the Indian River Lagoon, Orlando News 6 reported.

“There are only so many places that water can go, and you have an option, you can let that water back up into people’s homes or you can discharge it into the river,” Brevard County Spokesman Don Walker said.

Power outages prohibited lift stations from working properly, and the heavy rainfall in the southern part of the county overwhelmed the backup generators, Walker told Orlando News 6.

“We’re a 72-mile-long county and these things happen up and down the chain so you can’t just put generators at every lift station for a hurricane but what you try to do is move those generators around as you need to,” he said, according to the article.

Near Bradenton, Florida, four million gallons of wastewater were released into the Manatee stream, Tampa News Channel 8 reported.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said Hurricane Ian’s heavy rainfall and strong winds caused a power outage at the Bradenton lift station, and the backup generator’s failure after extended use allowed the wastewater to be released into Wares Creek.

Officials said they applied lime, raked and disposed of debris in an effort to clean up the area, the article states.

The spill into the Indian River Lagoon shows an improvement in infrastructure since 2018’s Hurricane Irma, which contributed to a 22-million-gallon sewage spill into the lagoon.

For a full list of pollution reports from Hurricane Ian, click here.

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