UPDATE: The Lake Alert for Lake Formosa and Lake Rowena has been lifted. Please resume all normal water activities associated with the lake.

In a bit of news that surprises nobody, there has been another sewage overflow at the Mills Park residential tower by Lake Formosa.

Following a previous leak in January, a City of Orlando spokesperson told Bungalower that, “The city is working closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as they investigate this incident. We will also be working with the private lift station owner to ensure appropriate repairs are made and steps are taken to prevent future spills or overflows.”

Read, “Our hands are tied because we don’t have the teeth needed for this fight. Because, weird laws.”

Private lift stations, like the one behind the Gallery at Mills Park, are regulated and permitted by the Department of Environmental Protection. The only thing the City of Orlando can legally do in an instance like this is fine the offending party for the cleanup, which it totally plans on doing. The Mills Park Property Association was issued a fine of $1,250 for yet another spill in October 2018 but a one-bedroom, one-bath unit in their building rents for $1,534-$2,026 a month, so it’s not necessarily a significant number to justify overhauling the entire lift station system.

After issuing a fine to an offending party, like Mills Park, the City of Orlando will continue to work with property owners on compliance issues – which translates to telling them, “stop making a mess or we’ll count to three.” But when they reach three they just call the DEP and hope they come to administer punishment. The City of Orlando, in this instance, is a powerless babysitter who isn’t allowed to spank a shitty child.

While the January leak was caused by a malfunction in a bypass valve, this recent issue was caused by a cracked pipe in the valve box.

An estimated 4,000 gallons of sanitary waste was discharged from the lift station during the incident Thursday morning, with roughly 1,200 gallons of that having reached the stormwater system that flows into Lake Formosa. Crews from the DEP and the City of Orlando were on-site monitoring the cleanup which is being paid for by the private owner of the lift station, the Mills Park Property Association.

A Lake Alert has been issued for Lake Formosa and adjoined Lake Rowena due to possible elevated E. coli counts caused by the raw sewage contamination. All water contact activities associated with either lake should cease until further notice.

A representative for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection told Bungalower that as a result of the previous spills, they have entered into a Consent Order, attached below, with Mills Park as of September 26, 2019. The Department is making them complete a list of improvements to the lift station by February 23, 2020. If those improvements are not carried out, penalties will be put into place, on top of a number of other fines and settlements that are outlined in the Order.

I’m not sure what the “penalties” will include but I was told that this recent incident will result in additional improvements and fines for the development and that they will be held accountable for noncompliance. The City of Orlando will also be investigated to ensure that the city’s infrastructure is not partly to blame for the recurring leakages.

In the meantime, I hope the smell doesn’t bother the new Orlando Ballet tenants, Mennello Museum, the nearby residents, or the otter family that lives in the lake.

Brendan O'Connor

Editor in Chief of Bungalower.com

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