Nearly 100 Million Gallons of Wastewater Released in Florida After Hurricane Irma

After Hurricane Irma hit, it’s been reported that nearly 100 million gallons of sewage and partially treated wastewater spilled over at utility plants throughout Florida. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection received more than 500 reports of wastewater releases. In the week after Irma touched land, wastewater flowed from sewer mains and manholes, some even flowing into houses or businesses.

The amount of wastewater spillage is at least three times more than the wastewater that was released after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Dee Ann Miller, a member of the Department of Environmental Protection, told The Daytona Beach News Journal, “Residents and visitors in areas affected by the hurricane are encouraged to continue to protect themselves and their families from potential health risks that may be presented by contaminated floodwaters and storm water by staying out of them… Floodwaters may contain bacteria or other potential contaminants from sewer overflows, septic tanks or agricultural or industrial waste. As we continue to respond to the impacts of this storm event, safety is our first and foremost concern.”

The Importance of Wastewater Treatment
The definition of wastewater treatment is using chemical and biological processes to remove pollutants from an industrial or municipal discharge before releasing it into a body of water. Dumping untreated wastewater into rivers, streams, and oceans has a severely negative impact. Not only does this action waste valuable water, but it also harms the environment and poses a threat to public health. Every year, more than 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die from water related diseases and 2 million tons of wastewater is discharged into the world’s waterways globally. Around the world, countries are working towards creating better solutions to water management issues.

Why is Wastewater Treatment Necessary?
There are many pollutants be found in different types of wastewater. Some of these pollutants include:

  • Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD)
  • Nitrates and/or phosephates
  • Bacteria, viruses, and fungi
  • Synthetic chemicals
  • Metals like Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Lead, Manganese, and Mercury

All of these pollutants can cause harmful damages to the aquatic ecosystem and lead to a plethora of health issues. Additionally, the facility dumping the untreated wastewater could become subject to legal actions.

Industrial Wastewater Treatments and Regulations
There are many different options of treating wastewater, depending on what is going to be done with the water. Depending on the local definition of wastewater treatment options, the rules and regulations may vary.

In areas where there are low water resources, treating wastewater to recycle and reuse is common. In this situation, wastewater treatment plans will be based on the pollutants in the wastewater.

For releasing wastewater back into the environment, there are very strict regulations to be followed. A NPDES permit is required, which puts limitations on what kind of wastewater can be released, as well as when and how it can be released. If these local regulations are not followed, the facility will be sustained with hefty fines.

Releasing wastewater into the local municipality is similar to releasing it into the environment. Depending on the local municipality, there are certain requirements the wastewater needs to meet in order to be disposed of safely.

It’s important to understand the definition of wastewater treatment and how discharging untreated wastewater can impact not only the environment, but also the public health.

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