12132013501?profile=RESIZE_710xRepairs continue on a sewer pipe that leaked into the Intracoastal Waterway near Marina Village in Boynton Beach. It is estimated that some 12 million gallons of wastewater emptied into the Intracoastal Waterway during a a three-day breach. The Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County has put out an advisory alerting the public to avoid contact with water in the area. The cleanup is expected to last into August. Tao Woolfe/The Coastal Star.

By Tao Woolfe

 Yellow police tape and bulldozers at the east end of Boynton Beach Boulevard on Saturday, July 8 kept traffic from entering areas where repairs to a sewer pipe that had been leaking millions of gallons of wastewater have been underway since Monday, July 3.

Although the crews by Friday had sealed off the leak by creating a system that bypasses broken piping, the chugging of unmanned pumps and generators could be heard throughout the neighborhood just east of Federal Highway.

Florida Department of Health signs posted near entrances to Mangrove Park warn visitors to avoid contact with canal and lake water “due to high amounts of bacteria.”

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection continues to investigate the wastewater release into the Intracoastal Waterway, a spokeswoman for the department said on Friday. 

It has been estimated by city officials that some 12 million gallons of wastewater emptied into the Intracoastal in the three days following the breach on Monday. The cleanup is expected to last into August.

City officials said the 50-year-old clay piping that runs beneath Boynton Beach Boulevard was on the books to be replaced, but that replacement had not yet taken place.

Poonam Kalkat, Boynton’s utility director, told reporters that the city’s drinking water was not affected and that the city is working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to continue sampling and testing.

The city hired contractor Clean Harbors Environmental Services to help with the repairs.

“Because the spill impacted surface waters, water quality samples are being taken to ensure bacteria levels remain within safe parameters,” an FDEP spokeswoman said. “The Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County has put out a health advisory alerting the public to avoid contact with water in the area.”

Within the next five days, the City of Boynton Beach will submit a thorough summary report that includes a detailed description of the incident, amount of wastewater released, the city's response and the water quality sampling results, the FDEP spokeswoman said.

This information will be used to inform the department's ongoing regulatory review.

“Protecting Florida’s environment and the health and safety of our residents and visitors is DEP’s top priority, and every unauthorized discharge is taken seriously,” the spokeswoman said.

DEP takes a three-pronged approach, the spokeswoman said:

— Work with the facility or utility to identify any releases and ensure the release is stopped as quickly as possible.

— Gather and analyze information surrounding the circumstances of the incident to evaluate it from a regulatory perspective.

— Identify any further corrective actions needed, including solutions to avoid future discharges and possible enforcement, which may include fines and penalties.

The Florida DEP has several enforcement tools to address any identified violations, the spokeswoman said. Depending on nature of the violation and circumstances surrounding the event, FDEP will determine which measure is best-suited. Along with the possibility of fines and penalties, enforcement can also necessitate restoration and/or remediation actions through a consent order or other enforcement mechanism, she added.

 

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