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Haines City must fix pipes responsible for 1.3 million gallon wastewater leak or pay fine

Lake Eva
Posted at 10:13 PM, Aug 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 05:31:18-04

HAINES CITY, Fla. — Haines City may have to pay a hefty fine to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after more than 1 million gallons of wastewater leaked into the ground and nearby lake.

Of the 1.3 million gallons of wastewater spilled, about 850,000 gallons of the sewage was dumped into Haines City’s Lake Eva back in May.

"Any wastewater spill is serious no matter how many gallons it is," said Haines City's public infrastructure director James Keene.

It took the city nine days to determine it was a burst in the nearly century-old underground pipework that caused the wastewater leak.

"A 1927 pipe that burst. It was eroded by water that was flowing underneath it. So what happened there in laymen's terms, the water that was supposed to be leaving the system reentered the system," said Keene.

Lake Eva is a popular recreational center for boating and fishing, yet most residents were never notified of the leak.

"A takeaway for us, if this were to ever occur again, we would go knock on every single door of anybody who it butts the water by," Keene said.

The lake also serves as the starting point of the annual Ironman triathlon.

"We perform testing, matter of fact my team was out there yesterday pulling samples. All tests came back clear today, and we'll continue to sample the lake," said Keene.

Haines City is now being fined $111,000 by DEP. They can forgo that payment if they fix the aging wastewater infrastructure.

"Instead of writing a check to DEP that they just put into their bank account or send to another community, yes, they allow the city to invest that back into our system,” said Keene.