The release of at least 17 million gallons of wastewater into the waters of Manatee County in the first 24 hours after Hurricane Ian was a standout event for those who normally pay attention to water quality.
But this is just one of many pieces of the contamination puzzle after Ian destroys Florida.
“It’s not great, but it’s less rain than we’ve had in the past,” said Dave Tomasco, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. “We estimate that tens of billions of gallons of runoff flowed into Sarasota Bay.”
As researchers begin to piece together the environmental damage of storms, some conclusions are already clear.
For one thing, Tampa Bay has largely escaped the worst. However, according to Ed Sherwood, executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, rainfall falling in the bay, which is about 6 inches lower than Sarasota Bay’s 11 or higher, still exacerbates water quality conditions in the lower basin. There is a possibility.
One day after landing, sewage from Manatee County into the lower Tampa Bay basin filled more than 25 Olympic pools.
The runoff plume that left southwestern Florida in the days after Ian was so large that it could be seen from space. But this week it’s still floating about two miles off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
We are just beginning to see the content of all that effluent and what it means for algal blooms and the future of the environment and human health. faecal bacteria; grass clippings; dog poop; gasoline;
What was once sparkling water now resembles root beer. One week after Ian’s, salinity in the lower Sarasota Bay basin was about half the normal average, according to data from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.
“In the long run, this can kill clams, worms, and small fish that live on the seafloor,” Tomasco says.
Wastewater spill flares up in the middle after Ian
Wastewater spills are just a small part of these hostile environments.
Staff at the Bradenton water treatment plant first informed Jim McClellan, Bradenton’s public works director, of the potential spill on Sept. 28, when Hurricane Ian hit southwest Florida.
Rising groundwater seeped through cracks in underground sewers, clogging filters and swelling the system, McClellan said.
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As a result, approximately 18 hours of partially treated wastewater flowed into the Manatee River, estimated to total more than 13 million gallons. Around the same time, another lift station’s backup generator failed, McClellan said, sending four million gallons of sewage into Wards Creek, south of downtown Bradenton.
“It was by no means an ordinary event,” he said.
Up north, sewage pumps across Hillsborough County also began to overflow after a region-wide power outage.
At least 330,000 gallons of wastewater—enough to fill more than 13 average swimming pools—was finished on Sept. 29, according to a Florida Environmental Protection Agency report filed by the City of Tampa Wastewater. It spilled into the waters of Tampa for 18 hours. Department.
In one example, a pumping station at Adamo Acres off Lime Tree Road in Tampa lost power for 18 hours during a storm. The crew was able to start a backup generator, but state environmental records show that more than 138,000 gallons of wastewater had already been dumped into a ditch that flowed into the Palm River and then into Hillsborough Bay.
Response teams were “unable to retrieve the overflow” and signs warning of spills were posted along the Palm River, records show.
Will Ian influence Red Tide?
Determining how post-Ian runoff, including sewage runoff, may impact red tide blooms, according to Kate Hubbard, director of the Red Tide Research Center at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It’s still early days. September through January are the best conditions for the growth of harmful algae.
“Of course, we’re keeping a close eye on it. We’re in the window on the right side of it, but generally it’s hard to say because a lot of stuff goes into the water after a storm like this.” Hubbard said, “There’s also a lot of energy. Where that energy goes is something we’ve been tracking for a long time.”
Large amounts of water are displaced after a Category 4 storm. Wind energy helps mix the water column, shifting ocean currents. This could be converted into ocean energy that could determine whether red tides were carried ashore, said Hubbard.
All freshwater runoffs are likely to have at least one silver lining when they collide with a salty bay: the red tide-causing species, Karenia BrevisAccording to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographer Richard Stumpf, the low-salinity environment is difficult to sustain for long periods of time.
According to Hubbard, in the first days after the hurricane hit, research vessels detected trace amounts of red tide organisms about 30 miles off the coast of Tampa Bay. However, there was a “very low” risk of red tide on a model run from Clearwater to Inglewood early Friday morning, according to the federal government’s Gulf of Mexico noxious algae bloom forecast.
“Since Ian died, things have been going back and forth,” said Hubbard. “We continue to monitor things very closely.”