MELBOURNE, Fla. - The aftermath of Hurricane Ian is wreaking havoc on the Indian River Lagoon. Water overflow in Brevard County is causing millions of gallons of sewage to leak into the lagoon – enough switch to fill 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools
Environmentalists say it's the last thing this troubled waterway needs.
After Hurricane Ian, Central Florida communities were left reeling from the aftereffects of the storm here in Brevard County. So far, officials estimate that some 7.2 million gallons of sewage have been released into the lagoon. Local environmentalists say they're frustrated.
"I am disgusted. I mean, this was just a tropical storm," says Stel Bailey, president of Fight For Zero. "We're in big trouble if a major hurricane comes to the East Coast." Bailey says the storm showed there's a lack of resources in the community, including not converting enough septic into sewer systems in the area.
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"Being reactive and a lack of being proactive when it comes to our infrastructure in these issues, so we grow so fast that we can't keep up with our infrastructure," she adds.
Brevard County says millions of dollars have already been spent to help with cleanup efforts.
"When we have power outages or water inundation into our system, you know, that sewage needs a place to go, right? And so it's either back up into people's homes, or we have to discharge it," explains Don Walker with Brevard County Emergency Management. "And when we discharge it, it either goes into the river or it gets there in some capacity through the groundwater."
The county has been focused on muck removal from the river – extracting algae from the river and growing seagrass, which is a manatee's main source of food.
"I think, you know, the tropical storm definitely showed us where the issues were and where we need to work, and if we don't use that as something that pushes us to fix and address these issues, I don't know what our future looks like in this county," says Bailey.
The county said the sewage spill has been handled, but overall cleanup efforts continue.