Governor Rick Scott is ordering the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to investigate massive sewage spills after hurricanes Hermine and Matthew.
“Florida is famous for our pristine environment, world-class beaches and award-winning state parks. We must do all we can to protect our natural resources to ensure everyone in our state has access to clean and safe water,” said Scott in a news release.
Heavy rainfall, power outages and storm surges caused utilities to dump millions of gallons of raw and partially-treated sewage into the environment.
After Hurricane Hermine, 20 million gallons of sewage flowed into Tampa Bay. After Hurricane Matthew, more than 11 million gallons – and counting — has been discharged around Duval County.
JEA CEO Paul McElroy said the utility did everything it could to prevent spills and is now working with the state to assess what went wrong.
“We anticipate working as collaboratively and as openly as we can with FDEP. We reached out to them. Reached out to both the governor and the secretary. We had conversations with them yesterday,” he said.
Meanwhile, St. Johns County officials haven't fully calculated how much sewage spilled in their area, though they estimate it’s at least 20,000 gallons. Boil-water notices have been lifted across that county.
The state didn’t provide specifics on its investigation, but did say it will work with local utilities to gauge the long-term environmental impact of the spills.
“DEP is currently reviewing all information related to the sewer overflows and will request additional information from the utilities as needed to complete the investigation,” DEP spokeswoman Jessica Boyd said in a written statement.
The full list of sewage spills can be found at DEP’s website.