Massive sewer spill leads to health advisory on Siesta Key

Sarasota County

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A health advisory is in effect after thousands of gallons of raw sewage was dumped into a Siesta Key canal.

As tests are underway, authorities are urging residents to be cautious.

This advisory impacts people who live and boat on the Grand Canal, which feeds into the bay.

At the end of a Siesta Key neighborhood lies an old wastewater treatment plant. In this complex is the new Siesta Key Master Lift station, and on Tuesday, something went horribly wrong.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says for two hours, 36,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into the nearby grand canal.

Crews recovered roughly 15,000 gallons before it was stopped and they also spread lime to help soak up some of the remaining sewage.

Authorities blame a booster station on the mainland that failed, causing this overflow.

“In my entire time living here I’ve seen that water fully clear maybe once or twice for a day or two,” said resident Zachary Dorsay.

The Florida Department of Health has issued a health advisory to residents and visitors.

County officials will conduct water testing throughout Grand Canal until bacteria levels return to normal.

The contaminated water could present health risks such as gastrointestinal issues.

There have been numerous sewage spills in the area in recent years.

This site has been a source of spills for years. In fact, in 2016 the wastewater plant dumped 3.3 million gallons of partially-treated wastewater into the canal during a hurricane.

Residents are frustrated, and worried this sewage could contribute to future algae blooms.

“Makes the water a lot more dirty. Makes it smell bad, obviously its not good for the environment,” said Dorsay. “It brings concerns that maybe it will cause it to come back because you know, that was absolutely horrible last summer for all of us, it was horrible just to even step outside.”

County authorities say the wastewater treatment plant has been decommissioned and will soon be demolished.

Anyone who comes in contact with water in Grand Canal should wash thoroughly. Children and older adults, as well as people with weak immune systems, should be extremely cautious.

If you have any questions, contact the Department of Health.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection released a statement which said in part:

DEP has a number of enforcement tools we are able to use to address any identified violations. Depending on the nature of the violation and circumstances surrounding the event, DEP will determine which measure is best-suited. Along with the possibility of fines and penalties, which is one enforcement tool, enforcement can also necessitate restoration and/or remediation actions through a Compliance Assistance Offer, Consent Order, or other enforcement mechanism. In this case, the Department is also working with the facility to develop a more comprehensive inspection program for the facility.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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