County says neighbors are safe amid sewage in pond near Lely homes

Reporter: Taylor Smith Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
A warning sign is posted near a retention pond in Lely, where Collier County Public Utilities Department sent sewage water after a wastewater main broke near Santa Barbara Boulevard and Rattlesnake Hammock Road Thursday, March 18, 2020. Credit: WINK News.

Sewage seeping into backyards is a major health for neighbors in a Southwest Florida community.

A wastewater main break continues to worry people near Rattlesnake Hammock Road and Santa Barbara Boulevard in Lely. Dead fish were surfacing in a pond near homes last Friday after the break happened and sewage water began to pour into the area.

Collier County said Monday the main break was repaired, but there is still a lot of cleanup that needs to be done, which includes draining the entire poCnd.

Our crew saw many dead still floating in the water near people’s homes. Neighbors told us the smell is making them feel sick, and they want to see more done.

Pamela Webster lives near the retention pond that contains displaced sewage from the water main break.

“It is definitely a danger and a health concern,” Webster said.

Collier County Public Utilities Department says one of its biggest pipes burst due to its age, and the pond in Lely was the best place for it to go.

“Just over 3 million gallons went to the stormwater retention pond,” said Beth Johnssen, the wastewater division director for Collier County public utilities.

“If we weren’t able to capture it at that area, there would have been strong potential for it to travel throughout the system and enter canal systems and eventually go out to the Naples Bay or Rookery Bay area,” Commissioner Rock LoCastro said.

The county knows odor from the sewage is bothersome but says it’s not a danger to people’s health or their well water.

“The best science now tells us that they are far enough away from the pond that they don’t have a concern,” said Amy Patterson, the director for growth management department.

Reassurance from the county has not completely put neighbors such as Webster at ease.

“They’re telling us that aerosolized human waste that could possibly contain [COVID-19] is not dangerous? I don’t believe that,” Webster said. “My curiosity is what would be done about this if it were in the middle of downtown Naples?”

So Webster went near the pond along Santa Barbara Blvd. with a sign she made that reads “Ten acres of human waste” to continue to push for more to be done.

“I can’t believe we are living in what are considered third world conditions here in one of the wealthiest communities in the entire country,” Webster said.

Waste trucks could be seen in and out of the area all day with crews working to drain the pond. There is no set time frame for when that will be completed.

Anyone living in the area who has concerns can call the county at 239-252-5032.

If a resident has additional concerns, information about testing their well can be found on the Florida Department of Health’s website,

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