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Raw Sewage Is Now Bubbling Up in These Hurricane Irma-Battered Cities

September 15, 2017, 7:42 PM UTC

Florida residents recovering from the damage of last week’s devastating storm face a new hazard: sewage and wastewater in the streets of various cities across the state. The result of failed pumping stations and backed up sewers, this untreated water has the potential to rapidly spread disease, compounding the devastation in an already badly battered area.

According to reports filed by Florida’s Department of Environmental protection, an indeterminate amount wastewater is now bubbling up, with tens of thousands of gallons of sewage reportedly flowing out of sewers in Miami, Orlando, and Palm Bay, among other cities. But those are just post-storm reports. During Irma, 1.5 million gallons of sewage overflowed from Jacksonville’s treatment facility, according to News4Jax.

Like storm clouds on the horizon, this sewage problem is one that Florida saw coming. According to a New York Times report before the storm hit, the Category 5 storm would surely put the state’s aging infrastructure to the test. And after the rain started falling, pump stations lacking electricity to run and couldn’t move the massive amount of water Irma dumped, reports The Washington Post.

This means the scenes of Florida’s devastation may not be cleared up any time soon. For instance, Irma destroyed a quarter of all homes in the Florida Keys, but rebuilding cannot begin until the area is clean, dry, and free from potential health hazards. And with millions of homes still without power, it will be some time yet before cleanup efforts can begin in earnest.