BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Hurricane Sally did more than just flood homes, streets, and rivers, it caused over 117 different sewage spills to occur in five surrounding counties.
Bay, Walton, Washington, Okaloosa, and Holmes county all had reports of raw sewage entering multiple bodies of water.
According to the Department of Environmental Health (DEP), Bay County had 46 reports, Walton County had nine, Washington County had three, Okaloosa County had 58, and Holmes County had one.
Joe Scully, Environmental Supervisor for the Bay County Health Department said these spills shouldn’t be ignored, and that residents should use extreme caution when entering these particular bodies of water.
“We put out an advisory, just alerting folks that they shouldn’t be swimming in that water due to the harmful effects that could come from either ingesting raw sewage, or if you have an open cut or wound, you could get an infection,” Scully said.
Scully said swimming in the contaminated water could result in infections, as well as other illnesses.
“If you ingest the water and it’s contaminated, you could wind up with E. coli in your system,” Scully said. “Gastrointestinal distress, normally in a healthy individual, that’s probably what you would see.”
But if you are immunocompromised, the effect could be much worse.
“The very young or the very old, they could have more complications from it,” Scully said. “And of course if you have any open wounds.”
Scully said it’s always recommended to stay out of the saltwater with any cuts or wounds, and that if you spot them afterward, to always shower off.
In addition to staying out of the water, individuals also need to be careful with the seafood they eat.
“Any seafood that is properly cooked and prepared would be fine,” Scully said. “If you do catch some fish from one of the areas where there is an advisory, don’t make it into sushi.”
Scully said after a spill occurs, the city starts testing for levels of contamination. He said all contamination has a numerical value that gets reported to the DEP.
“In coordination with us, we would rescind the advisory if the levels are back below the acceptable amounts,” Scully said.
Scully said the recent sewage spills have no connection to the water we drink unless you are on a private well.
“If there is no boil water notice, then your drinking water is fine,” Scully said. “If you are on a private well and your property gets flooded, and you’re on a septic system, then in that case you could contaminate your drinking water.”
He said anyone in this situation, should have their well water tested.
As of Wednesday, September 30, all Bay County advisories remain in effect.
“As of today, we not rescinded any of the advisories,” Scully said. “I believe that Lynn Haven has completed their sampling and they are just waiting for me to review those results.”
Head to your area county health website to view current advisories.