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Orlando residents told to limit water use as flooding from Hurricane Ian overwhelms sewer system

Untreated sewage overflows from Orlando's Iron Bridge water treatment facility in this image from video posted by the city on its Facebook page.

Sewage has been spilling from treatment facilities and pipes — entering streets and lakes in Central Florida — since Hurricane Ian dumped excessive rainfall on the area.

The city of Orlando issued an advisory Sunday asking residents to “severely limit water usage” in their homes. Here’s part of the advisory.

“This includes refraining from the following as much as possible:

  • Flushing toilets
  • Doing laundry
  • Washing dishes
  • Taking showers/baths
  • Using irrigation systems”

“It is critical,” the advisory says, “for residents and businesses to decrease water usage in order for lift station operators to repair the system and pump out the increased water to divert the overflow to discharge areas.”

“Minimize your bathroom trips,” Public Works Director Corey Knight said in an interview recorded by staff. “Minimize showers. Minimize washing your hands. Minimize running the dishwasher. Minimize all of these things that are adding to our sanitary sewer systems to help us out through this immediate crunch right now to where we can get to, kind of, the other side of this,”

He said residential usage adds to what is “already a taxed system.”

The advisory went out Sunday, but the problem — at treatment plants and lift stations, which move waste water uphill — has been going on for days.

On Friday, one of several incident reports to Florida Department of Environmental Protection documented “multiple sanitary sewer overflows.” The sewage has flowed down streets and into lake and streams.

Other Central Florida communities have also reported overwhelmed sewer systems.


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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes reports on aging-related issues for WMFE/WMFV. Please contact him at jbyrnes@wmfe.org. He came to WMFE from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after ... Read Full Bio »