June 2020 – We have made great strides over the years in improving the health and water quality of the Hillsborough River. There is more consistent flow of water down the lower river and water overall is cleaner and healthier for wildlife and recreational users. However, sewage spills continue to pose a threat to the water quality of the river. The sheer size of the sewage system and its age leads to many points of potential failure along the river and its tributaries. When raw sewage enters the river, not only is it unsightly and have a foul odor, but it is laden with disease causing pathogens. The sewage also contains nutrients which can foul water quality, cause algae blooms, consume vital oxygen, and cause fish kills and other aquatic life die offs.
Thankfully, these spills are generally an episodic event and don’t cause ongoing problems over the long term. Typically, flow in the river tends to send the spill downriver and into Tampa Bay and eventually the Gulf of Mexico where it is diluted and assimilated by the natural environment.
The most recent spill threatening the river was at a lift station at The Park at Valenza apartment complex at 6900 Aruba Avenue in Temple Terrace. The lift station malfunctioned the morning of May 27 spilling raw sewage. The privately-owned sewage lift station released 100,000 gallons of sewage into nearby collection ponds, as reported by the Federal Department of Environmental Protection’s pollution notice website.
This area is very close to the Hillsborough River, raising fears the sewage could enter the river. Other spills occurred this year in Hillsborough County, but not in the vicinity of the Hillsborough River. If you see a water quality concern call the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County (EPCHC) at 813-627-2600, www.epchc.org.