Lely neighbors have health concerns after sewage seeps into backyards due to main break

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

Sewage is seeping into people’s backyards, and several fish are dying in a pond near their homes because of it. It all started because of a force main break. Families in the neighborhood are worried about their water because it comes from the wells.

A wastewater main break that happened Thursday in Lely was still posing a nuisance for people who live in the community Friday near Rattlesnake Hammock Road and Santa Barbara Boulevard.

Neighbors pointed out what appeared to be clusters of raw sewage floating around a retention pond. Dead fish were also visible in the water.

Neighbors worry whatever is in water killing the fish is also making its way into the drinking water in their wells.

“The sidewalk is all cracked, and there’s just this brown was just bubbling up,” John McCandless said. “The water is usually clear, and it’s muddy and it’s just that you can smell it in the house.”

Neighbors say this normally clear pond is filled with what looks like raw sewage. Dozens of dead and dying fish now lined the permitter.

“I think it’s an ecological disaster,” Keith Vogt said.

Collier county says an unknown amount of wastewater was released from a nearby break, but neighbors say the water level of a pond rose significantly in a 24-hour period.

“Four to six more feet of shoreline was visible,” Vogt said. “So just imagine how much sewage must be required to lift this lake.”

The biggest fear for neighbors is that the contaminated water will seep into the aquifer that feeds their well systems. Dozens of families use well water near the affected pond.

“In over 20 years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen this or smelled … this bad,” McCandless said. “I’m really concerned about my family and also my neighbors.”

We asked the county if people in Lely need to boil their water while crews contain and mitigate the wastewater, but we did not receive a direct answer to that question. Instead, the county said nearby wells are more than 100 feet away from the break.

“I guess I’m going to have to shut my water system down and go out and buy water to drink tonight,” McCandless said.

“It would be greatly appreciated if the county would give us some guidance on our health and safety,” Vogt said.

The potable wells on neighboring properties are greater than 100 feet away from the affected areas of the stormwater management system. For comparison, state law allows a new well private potable well to be drilled 101 feet away from an impoundment that contains domestic wastewater.

If a resident has additional concerns, information about testing their well can be found on the Florida Department of Health’s website, http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/private-well-testing/index.html

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