News Feature | November 24, 2017

Florida Investigates Unauthorized 5-Million-Gallon Sewage Discharge

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


Unfortunately, the practice of discharging untreated or partially-treated sewage is all too common for wastewater treatment plants. But a recent instance in Florida has caught the attention of state watchdogs.

Whether it be from stormwater surge, mechanical malfunction, or something else, hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater enters source bodies every year. But when more than 5 million gallons of treated sewage and stormwater flooded from a plant and into Delray Beach source water late last month, a state environmental agency began an investigation.

“About 100,000 gallons spilled into the Intracoastal Waterway on Oct. 29 because of a line break in an outfall, a pipe that leads to the ocean,” per the Sun-Sentinel. “Then, over three days starting Oct. 29, the South Central Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant discharged more than 5 million gallons of wastewater into a canal that connects to Lake Ida.”

Because this discharge was unauthorized, it prompted concern from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“An initial review of the facility fond the plant may have violated pollution-control laws, according to a letter of warning from the DEP to the South Central Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant dated Nov. 9,” the Sun-Sentinel reported. “The letter is part of a department process to gather additional information and learn if there were any violations.”

Though it was an unauthorized discharge, the plant seems to have had good reason to carry it out. Heavy rains inundated the area and doubled the amount of wastewater that typically moved through the plant, bringing in 33 million gallons, according to Doug Levine, the plant manager.

“Ordinarily, the plant uses its ocean-outfall pipe to jettison excess water in emergency situations, but a line broke along the ocean outfall, causing the 100,000-gallon spill,” per the Sun-Sentinel. “As a result, the treatment plant had to close down the outfall pipe and dump more than 5 million gallons into a canal north of the plant.”

Whether or not the plant would be punished for its reaction to the stormwater was not immediately clear.

To read similar stories visit Water Online’s Stormwater Management Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Sunrise over Delray Beach," Adam Fagen, 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: