UPDATED: We updated this story with comment from Hillsborough County.
In the last two months, almost 2.7 million gallons of wastewater was spilled in Hillsborough County, records from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection show.
According to the FDEP, a total of 2,699,100 gallons of spilled wastewater from both public and private facilities have been reported in Hillsborough County in 2020.
And, while most of the wastewater has been properly cleaned-up by federal standards, records show an estimated 589,900 gallons is now unaccounted for.
The vast majority of this wastewater came from two giant spills, one of which happened just yesterday. On Feb. 20, at around 1:30 p.m., a contractor working for the Hillsborough County Public Works Department hit and broke an 8-inch PVC force main at the intersection of 14th Ave. SE. and 6th St. SE. in Ruskin, resulting in 475,000 gallons of wastewater spilling into nearby ditches.
The report says that 95,800 gallons were recovered and that the affected area was cleaned and limed, however 379,200 gallons of that contaminated water was unable to be collected.
Hillsborough County’s largest spill this year occurred on Jan. 18, in a rural area just west of the Big Cat Rescue Center. Similar to yesterday’s spill, the Jan. 18 spill involved a contractor working for the county. The contractor damaged a 36-inch force main, and 2.2 million gallons of wastewater was spilled in the area. To give you an idea of how much wastewater 2.2 million gallons actually is, imagine nearly three full-sized Olympic swimming pools filled with toilet water.
According to the report, most of the spill was cleaned, but an estimated 200,000 gallons soaked into the ground.
Richard Cummings, the Hillsborough County division director for field services, told Creative Loafing they had to build an artificial canal to contain all the sewage, while the crew built a bypass to band-aid the pipe. In all, it took 22 trucks working over 50 hours to clean the wastewater from the ditch.
“This was one of the largest spills I’ve seen in a long time, said Cummings, who’s worked for the county for 19 years.