HAINES CITY, Fla. — Haines City may have to pay a hefty fine to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after more than 1,000,000 gallons (400,000 liters) of sewage leaked into the ground and into the nearby lake.
Of the 1.3 million gallons of spilled sewage, about 850,000 gallons of that sewage was dumped into Haines City’s Eva Lake in May.
“Any sewage contamination is serious, no matter the number of gallons,” said James Keene, Haines City’s director of public infrastructure.
It took the city nine days to determine that it was a rupture in the nearly hundred-year-old underground pipeline that caused the sewage leak.
“A pipe from 1927 that burst. It was eroded by water that flowed underneath. So what happened there, in layman’s terms, the water that was supposed to leave the system went back into the system,” Keene said.
Lake Eva is a popular recreational center for boating and fishing, but most residents have never been notified of the leak.
“A takeaway for us, if this ever happened again we’d be knocking on every single door of everyone it passed,” Keene said.
The lake also serves as the starting point for the annual Ironman triathlon.
“We’re running tests, in fact my team was out there yesterday taking samples. All tests were clear today and we will continue to take samples from the lake,” said Keene.
Haines City is now fined $111,000 by the DEP. They can waive this payment if they fix the aging sewage infrastructure.
“Rather than writing a check to DEP, which they just deposit into their bank account or send to another municipality, yes, they allow the city to invest that back into our system,” Keene said.