Hurricane Irma: Collier County sewage pumps still without power

Greg Stanley,; 239-263-4738 Published 8:05 p.m. ET Sept. 18, 2017 | Updated 8:44 p.m. ET Sept. 18, 2017


More than 270 lift stations needed to pump liquid sewage through the pipes of Collier County were still without power as of Sunday afternoon.

County officials couldn't say Monday when the power will return, only that residents in the 13 affected areas will need to conserve water to keep raw sewage from overflowing into streets, homes and businesses.

The county has been temporarily shutting off the water supply to some neighborhoods over the past several days after raw sewage started bursting through manhole covers and onto streets throughout the county over the weekend.

Extra equipment from the state has helped keep the sewage moving, said Margie Hapke, Collier County spokeswoman.

"Pumper trucks and portable generators are being used to pump those stations down until power is restored," Hapke said.

The problem is power. The county is so flat that the waste from every toilet, shower drain and washing machine needs to be pumped through one of about 800 lift stations to a treatment plant. Without power, the pumps don’t move the sewage, and it collects until it builds up and bursts through manholes or backs up through pipes.

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With most residents back in their homes even as half of the county is without power, sewage has been bursting up manholes throughout the county.

The areas without working lift stations include the neighborhoods of Palm River, Vineyards, Willoughby Acres, Village Walk, World Tennis Center, Marbella Lakes, Quail Creek, Imperial, Victoria Park, Naples Plaza, Longshore Lake, Quail West and the Yahl Street industrial park, Hapke said.

Florida Power & Light said Monday it plans to have power restored to more than 95 percent of Collier County by Friday. Collier was one of the hardest hit counties in Florida by Hurricane Irma. Of all the counties that get power from FPL, Collier is the slowest to have it restored.

While some of the sewage system remains without power, Collier County has finished making more than 100 major repairs to its sprawling drinking water system, Hapke said.

"We are providing full service," she said. "Crews are still working to repair service line breaks as they are called in by customers."

While the repairs have been made, a boil water notice remains in effect for all of Collier County until water quality tests can be completed.

Hurricane Irma’s heavy rainfall and storm surge may have contaminated the public water supply. It may be unsafe to drink any unsealed beverages at restaurants. That includes fountain drinks or drinks served with ice made from possibly contaminated water. Collier officials are also urging residents to boil water before it is used to serve hot drinks, including coffee.

Hapke couldn't say for sure how long the boil water notice will remain.

"Hopefully just a few more days," she said.