From Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Director Dave Tomasko:
Over the weekend, I spent time down in North Port with a friend, delivering gasoline and water to folks who didn’t or couldn’t leave their houses. While out there (in my dinghy) we noticed failed septic tanks, porta potties tipped over and submerged in floodwaters, as well as loads of submerged cars and trucks. Dead animals were in the flood waters – and over 200 dairy cows died in the flooded Myakka River. We have wastewater overflows all over our watershed – raw sewage spilling out via flooded collection systems and pump station failures (which often co-occur). In short, our water quality is a mess right now, with impacts worse in the lower bay than the upper bay.
In response, we worked with staff from Charlotte County, the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership (CHNEP), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC), the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), Environmental Science Associates (ESA) and Benchmark Laboratories to design a monitoring program that would measure the human health risks associated with impacts from Hurricane Ian, as well as the impacts to the health of Sarasota Bay, Lemon Bay, Charlotte Harbor, and the Peace and Myakka River watersheds. We went from discussions about how to design such a program, what parameters should be collected, how often we should sample, where we should sample, etc. to actual implementation in three days. Yesterday we implemented a monitoring effort that we’d only started to think about designing on Sunday. A big shout out to the handful of people who helped to get this done so quickly.