How The Largest City In Florida Is Dealing With Its Sewage Problem

The ageing sewage infrastructure in Jacksonville is unable to keep up with state’s population expansion, despite the city’s investment of millions in repairs and upgrades.

Florida’s St. Johns River is state’s largest river and one of only a few in the United States that flows northward. Located in the north-eastern portion of the state, Mayport is a picturesque fishing village known for its summer festivals, boat races, and fishing on the banks of a river that runs through the centre of downtown Jacksonville. Lisa Rinamin, lead advocate of environmental non-profit St. Johns Riverkeeper, describes it as “the largest urban settlement on the St. Johns”

This much-loved canal, however, has recently become less welcoming. A deterioration in its health has made it more susceptible to deadly blue-green algal outbreaks. Toxic nerve and liver toxins found in lower St. Johns River blooms, according to the 2019 State of a River report, pose a risk to swimmers, anglers, and anyone out there for a jog along the water, and can cause nausea & vomiting as well as rashes, numbness, and incoherent speech in those who come into contact with, swallow, and inhale airborne droplets of a polluted liquids. See Here to know Jacksonville, Florida, Has Polluted Air.

At its foundation lies a developing sewage disaster in the state of Florida. As the third most populated state in the country, Florida’s population is increasing at a rate of almost 2.5 million people every year. Its deteriorating sewage system is unable to cope.

Over the past two decades, the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) had made “millions of dollars” in repairs and improvements to the city’s sewage system.. Some of her neighbourhood, according to Rinamin, remains connected to old clay pipes laid down when Florida first began installing sewage systems more than 2 centuries ago. Aged pipes have led to an increase in sewage leaks. And blue-green algae thrive on nutrients found in sewage, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which feed and grow. Many Black neighbourhoods in Jacksonville are still without a centralised sewage collection system that rely on septic tanks, that Rinamin claims leak nutrients into the land and groundwater even whenever they are adequately managed. Septic tank leaks get worse with time.

Environmental restrictions to prevent sewage sludge from becoming dumped in Everglades region in southern Florida have also led to an increase in the amount of nutrients that flow into Jacksonville. As a result of those restrictions, sewage sludge is trucked north & dumped in central Florida, where it seeps into headwaters of St. Johns River, which is already polluted.

“Whack-a-mole” with the situation, says Rinamin, is what Florida legislators are doing. “No one is now concentrating on an environmentally sound method of disposing of the increasing volume of human waste.”

Sewage spills caused by poorly maintained pipes in Florida can now be punished with substantial fines under new legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. He penalised Ft. Lauderdale almost $2 million this summer for a series of spills which attracted worldwide notice for its frequency and intensity. Though his decision to forgo the fines for pipe repairs was criticised as harsh and politically motivated faux-environmentalism, he refused to allow them to be spent on them.