About 68,000 gallons of raw wastewater entered Rocky Bayou

BLUEWATER BAY — A health advisory is still in effect after a leaking sewer spewed massive amounts of raw wastewater into Rocky Bayou on Saturday.

 

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Okaloosa County Water and Sewer officials were notified by staff at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park of a potential sewage spill at the park. Crews arrived to find a significant leak on a 14-inch force main along the north side of State Road 20 just east of Lancaster Drive near Bluewater Bay.

By 3:30 p.m. the leak was diverted into large holding ponds along the north side of the road.

The Water and Sewer Department estimates that about 253,000 gallons of wastewater escaped from the pipe. About 68,000 gallons flowed into Rocky Bayou, with the remaining 185,000 gallons being contained in the ponds.

"The cause of the spill is not completely certain, but due to the one 20-foot section of pipe being split longitudinally, we suspect lightning was the culprit," Water and Sewer officials said in a news release.

Following the incident, staff was prepared to work through the night to finish repairing the leaking sewer force main, officials said.

According to Mark Wise, deputy director of the Water and Sewer Department, the pipe was repaired about 3 a.m. Sunday. Wastewater is no longer flowing into Rocky Bayou and is being pumped from the holding ponds to the city of Niceville's lift station, the news release said.

Because of the contamination, the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County has issued a health advisory for Rocky Bayou, which was still in effect Tuesday. The contaminated water presents several health hazards to humans and may contain untreated human sewage with microbes that could cause gastro-intestinal and other diseases, the Department of Health said.

The department warns that anyone who comes into contact with the affected water should wash thoroughly, especially before eating or drinking. Children and older adults, as well as people with weakened immune systems, are particularly vulnerable, so every precaution should be taken if in contact with the affected waters.

The county staff is performing water quality monitoring and testing. Once satisfactory results are achieved, the health advisory will be lifted.