City purchasing generators following Billy’s Creek sewage spill

Billy’s creek has been plagued with water quality issues over the years due to high levels of bacteria and raw sewage making its way into the waterway.

Water experts regularly sampling the creek say it has been contaminated for nearly two decades.

Along the creek is the city of Fort Myers wastewater treatment plant. The plant capacity is 12 million gallons with a daily demand of 6.5 million gallons.

Following hurricane Irma, extreme rainfall and power failure at lift stations caused 21 sewer overflows, which dumped 35,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into Billy’s Creek, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

The city says they’re going to buy generators within a year to help. “We’re going to spend a lot of money to add on to money that’s already been spent to ultimately solve the problem,” said Mayor Randy Henderson.

It’s an expensive problem with Billy’s Creek’s historically high levels of bacteria now compounded with raw sewage after hurricane Irma. The city has spent $100,000 each year for testing and another $775,000 in state funding was just approved.

Henderson said, “When we have catastrophic events such as Irma it really makes it that much more challenging to solve.”

John Cassani, director of non-profit Calusa Waterkeeper, which aims to protect Southwest Florida waterways, said “it’s a situation that’s likely to happen again.”

The city is purchasing 10 generators for future hurricanes in order to “have a generator to keep flow of that sewage going where it needs to go when there’s an extended power outage,” Cassani suggested.

But cleaning up the problem deep within the waters of the creek will take more work. The mayor said some improvements have been made, but there’s a long way to go.

The DEP required the city to either pay a more than $22,000 fine by April 26 or do an environmental project. The city opted to do the project, which will include the generators.

They must purchase them by June 2019.

Aerial of Billy’s Creek in Fort Myers. / WINK News
Reporter:Britni McDonald