BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. (FOX 35 WOFL) - State Representative Randy Fine blamed county and city leaders for not prioritizing enough spending on beachside sewer infrastructure to prevent discharges into the Indian River Lagoon.
Rep. Fine surveyed the county and city sewer systems in Brevard, and with only Palm Bay and the county reporting so far, he estimates 28 million gallons of mixed sewer and ground water, or enough to fill 1400 swimming pools, was dumped into the lagoon since Hurricane Irma.
"I put a lot of the blame on the local politicians” said Rep. Fine. “They seem to want to spend money on parades, campgrounds and baseball fields. And I don't know that they are spending enough money to make sure our infrastructure is up to date."
But Brevard County government placed part of the blame on record rain.
According to documents requested from the county, beachside sewer lines were swamped with eleven inches of rain during Hurricane Irma, and another three inches after it. Lift station power outages made matters worse by preventing pumping of the sewer lines to the sewer plants.
But more than a month later, rain is still flooding beachside sewer lines-- causing back ups into homes, and forcing more discharges.
Brevard County spokesperson Don Walker says in 2014, County Commissioners approved a ten year, $170 million dollar improvement plan to upgrade the sewer collection and distribution systems across the county, as well as expand treatment plants for Brevard County Utility Services.
The county also began sealing the inside of aging beachside sewer mains.
But Virginia Barker, Brevard County's Natural Resource Director believes the groundwater seepage into the sewer system is further upstream. The only culprit left? She says it could be privately owned sewer feeder lines from homes and businesses that have become degraged enough to allow ground water to flow in.
“It was a hidden flaw in the system” says Barker. “Now, it’s very exposed."
But Rep.Fine says if the county's elected leaders properly prioritized spending, they would already have a solution.
“Last week, while we are grappling with the 28 million gallons of sewage, they (Brevard County Commissioners) actually passed legislation for a new place to put kayaks into the Indian River” said Rep. Fine. "Who on earth is going to want to put a kayak into the lagoon after 28 million gallons of sewage raw is put in?"
On Friday, Brevard County’s Utility Department will present the results of water quality tests to determine how much of the discharged water contained sewage, and how much was groundwater.
The meeting is open to the public and will begin at 8:30 AM on October 20th at the Viera County Govt. Complex, Building C, in the Florida Room.