OLD FLORIDA INFRASTRUCTURE OVERWHELMED BY GLOBAL WARMING SUPER STORM IRMA
People should remember that Florida was, for the most part, a swamp. A giant, sprawling swamp. Until we drained sections of it and then developed more and more of it, Florida little resembled the state we know today, developed with infrastructure everywhere like sewers and drainage systems engineered to take it all back to the ocean. But this infrastructure is now pretty old and was never conceived to withstand the landfall of a storm like Irma.
FLORIDA COVERED IN OVER 9 BILLION GALLONS OF HUMAN WASTE
According to reports from sources like the New Republic, Irma’s wake has left us with a count of 82 dead, billions of dollars in widespread damage the tally of which just continues to rise as we understand more of what happened on the ground. But one threat to residents’ health and to Florida’s environment which will continue for some time to come is the more than 9 billion gallons of shit that now covers everything. Imagine what it would be like to live in a community surrounded by communities where so many people have lost everything and then imagine the ruins of your home, community and the surrounding area to be covered in shit. Uncountable Floridians don’t have to:
At the time of this article’s publication, at least 113 “Public Notices of Pollution” had been submitted to the DEP. Combined, those discharge reports showed more than 28 million gallons of treated and untreated sewage released in 22 counties. The total amount is surely much more; at least 43 of those reports listed either an “unknown” or “ongoing” amount of waste released, and new reports continue to roll in—sometimes as many as a dozen per hour.
POWER OUTAGES, OLD SYSTEMS, SEPTIC TANKS, CHEMICALS, FUELS ALL CREATE STATEWIDE COCKTAIL OF DISASTER
The source of the sewage comes from a combination of Florida’s unique history of drained swamps, its aged infrastructure, and Irma knocking out the electricity that powered the sewage-draining pumps, reports The Washington Post. Lots of residents have septic tanks as well that can overflow in floods. Other chemicals have added into the mix, like fuel from a ruptured tank.
NO QUICK FIX, CLEANUP WILL TAKE WEEKS, SOME HEALTH THREATS MAY TAKE FAR LONGER TO CONFRONT
It’s still unclear exactly what’s going to happen, but it will certainly not be good for human health in the short-term. There are potentials for gastrointestinal problems from E. coli, norovirus, salmonella and giardia, Atkin reports. Or maybe there will be reports of staph infections. Once the water is drained into the Biscane Bay, the risk is reduced, but the concern remains for any leftover puddles or slow-moving bodies of water.
Infrastructure aside, the problem could be something Florida needs to deal with for a few weeks. After that, it will require infrastructure upgrades to prevent something like this from happening again.