Florida Plagued by Sewage Spills

The state’s aging sewage infrastructure is failing, but the cost to replace it would be monumental.
April 15, 2019, 11am PDT | Camille Fink
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Chittiphatra Chanchuang

Florida sewers have spilled 1.6 billion gallons of wastewater, including 370 million gallons of untreated water, in the last decade, reports a team from GateHouse Media. Many sewers are old and reaching the end of their lifecycles, but municipalities are not able to replace the infrastructure:

Utility officials recognize the problem but say their hands are tied. They’re trying to extend the life of sewers with patchwork repairs. That’s because it could require hundreds of billions of dollars to bring the state’s older infrastructure up to modern standards, experts estimate.

The problem in Florida is exacerbated by storms that push water into the system that then overloads pipes and shuts down pumps. The threat to public health is apparent, but scientists say that fecal matter is also contributing to algae blooms in Florida waterways.

The most sewage, over half, was discharged in the Tampa Bay region. While Fort Lauderdale and Sarasota are taking steps to upgrade infrastructure, most cities do not have the resources. "But the longer municipalities wait, the more the cost will add up, while the environmental toll mounts, said Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who sponsored legislation under consideration this session that would fine utilities up to $2 per gallon of sewage spilled."

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Published on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 in GateHouse Media
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