Giant storms, aging infrastructure pushing Florida’s sewer systems to breaking point
More than 900,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed into Sarasota Bay after a violent December storm forced open a city pipe.
Summer rain in Daytona Beach and equipment failure in Jacksonville each prompted more than a quarter-million gallons of human waste to spill from sewers last year.
In Boca Raton, a pressurized pipe gushed out nearly 50,000 gallons of untreated wastewater, while another 55,000 gallons spewed from a DeFuniak Springs manhole into nearby Bruce Creek.
These sewage spills are emblematic of failing wastewater systems across Florida, which is grappling with aging infrastructure and no clear solutions for funding a fix.
During the past decade, deteriorating sewers have released 1.6 billion gallons of wastewater, much of it polluting the state’s estuaries and oceans, according to a GateHouse Media analysis of state environmental data.
More than 370 million gallons of that was completely untreated.
Experts say the sewage has fed the blue-green algae blooms wreaking havoc on Florida estuaries and exacerbated red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. Amid historic growth in Florida, environmentalists fear it will only get worse.
“We are at a point where sewers need to be replaced, and have been for some time now,” said Glenn Compton, chairman of Manasota-88, an environmental advocacy organization in Southwest Florida. “Until the local governments make it a priority, we are going to continue seeing these spills. Something needs to be done.”