Wastewater incidents, which include wastewater spills, can pose a threat to the environment and public health. Immediate notification and appropriate response are essential factors for minimizing the impact from wastewater incidents. Spills which are of 1,000 gallons or greater, or which may threaten the environment or public health, are required to be immediately reported by a utility to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) through a toll-free, 24-hour hotline known as the State Watch Office. Residents are also encouraged to report any suspected wastewater incidents to the toll-free number. Please note that a utility which experiences a spill less than 1,000 gallons is only required to report such incident to the department by notifying their appropriate District Office or delegated local program.
DEP State Watch Office
On average, the State Watch Office receives two wastewater incident notifications a day for the entire state. In many cases, wastewater spills are caused by road construction, storms or other factors beyond the control of the wastewater facility. Nearly two-thirds of all spills have a volume of less than 10,000 gallons, far less than the volume of a typical backyard swimming pool. In most cases, wastewater spills can be contained and much of the released volume can be recovered for proper treatment.
DEP staff follow-up on wastewater incident reports and work closely with the facility to initiate any necessary remedial actions. DEP also works with local health agencies to ensure that appropriate public health warnings are issued immediately. It is important to note that the department's primary compliance efforts are to prevent spills by ensuring facilities are properly constructed, operated and maintained.
CMOM stands for Capacity, Management, Operation and Maintenance for sanitary sewer collection systems. The Management, Operation and Maintenance (MOM) Programs Project is a pilot enforcement approach developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 4 to bring municipal sewer systems into full compliance with the Clean Water Act by eliminating sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) from municipal sewer systems.
Florida has experienced numerous tropical storms and hurricanes. Being prepared for emergencies is not only essential to every resident of Florida, but also to wastewater treatment utilities. For this reason, DEP sponsored the creation of the Florida’s Water-Wastewater Agency Response Network (FlaWARN) - a formalized system of "utilities helping utilities" to address mutual aid during emergency situations such as hurricanes. FlaWARN has developed an Emergency Response & Preparedness manual to assist water and wastewater utilities in developing appropriate procedures to deal with such events.
In addition, the department has developed a website called WATER Tracker that allows all Florida water and wastewater utilities to report their operational status following significant storm events. The operational status along with the reported needs of a utility are used to not only assess storm damage but to efficiently mobilize resources and distribute aid through FlaWARN. Wastewater incidents or spills that occur as a result of a storm event are still reported to the State Watch Office at 1-800-320-0519.
What is the State Watch Office? The State Watch Office is a centralized phone bank managed by the Department of Community Affairs' Division of Emergency Management and operated 24 hours/day and 7 days/week. It is used to report any emergency situations, including, for example, oil and hazardous spills, fires, airline or rail incidents.
Why did DEP change the reporting of wastewater spills to the State Watch Office? The department needed to be able to provide 24-hour response coverage and coordinate with other state and local agencies such as the Florida Department of Health and/or Emergency Response, where needed.
Where can I find regulations pertaining to wastewater spill reporting? Chapter 62-620, F.A.C.
What does one do if a wastewater spill is discovered? A spill should be reported as soon as practical, but at least no later than 24 hours from the time the permittee becomes aware of the spill. Residents can also report spills by calling the State Watch Office's toll-free number at 1-800-320-0519.
Where does a spill get reported? If the spill is 1,000 gallons or less, it should be reported by the facility directly to the appropriate District Office or delegated local program. If the spill is greater than 1,000 gallons, or where the public health or the environment may be endangered, it should be reported by the facility to the State Watch Office's toll-free number, 1-800-320-0519.
Other SSO Reporting Options
DEP has made sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) reporting more user-friendly for regulated facilities. The submission is available in the DEP Business Portal through the following: “Submit” followed by either “Report” or “Registration/Notification.” Users can choose to have the system automatically use the entered information to generate a Public Notice of Pollution. For more information regarding reporting through the Business Portal, please read DEP Business Portal Sanitary Sewer Overflow Reporting Tool. However, reporting the spill information through the DEP Business Portal does not alleviate the requirement of reporting the spill to the SWO or the District office or delegated local program, if it meets the conditions stated above.
What information does a permittee provide when reporting a spill?
Name, address, and phone number of person reporting the spill.
Name, address, and telephone number of permittee or responsible party for the discharge.
Date and time of the discharge and status of discharge (ongoing or ceased).
Characteristics of the wastewater spilled or released (untreated or treated, industrial or domestic wastewater).
Estimated amount of the discharge.
Location or address of the discharge.
Source and cause of the discharge.
Whether the discharge was contained on-site, and any cleanup actions taken to date.
Description of area affected by the discharge, including name of water body affected, if any.
Other persons or agencies contacted.
Provide as much information as possible!
What happens after a spill is reported to the State Watch Office? The State Watch Office operator may contact DEP's Office of Emergency Response (OER), the affected county’s emergency management and the Florida Department of Health. The OER then passes the information to the district’s wastewater program for follow-up. The required written follow-up report should be submitted to the district office by the permittee within five days of the time the permittee became aware of the spill.
What is FlaWARN? FlaWARN is the formalized system of "utilities helping utilities" address mutual aid during emergency situations. These incidents may be man-made or natural disasters. FlaWARN is made up of water and wastewater utilities across Florida, assisted by regulatory, technical and law enforcement agencies. The goal of FlaWARN is to provide immediate relief for member utilities during emergencies. The system works by matching personnel with the necessary tools and equipment to both assess and assist the impacted water and wastewater system as quickly as possible until a permanent solution to the damage may be implemented.
What if a utility requires immediate assistance in the event of an emergency to ensure public health & safety? For immediate assistance, a utility must contact one of the following:
the Florida Hotline at 1-866-742-0481 and leave a message on the automated answering system.
What if a utility is unable to connect to the internet after a storm event? The utility can still report their facility’s status by calling toll-free 1-866-742-0481. Please note that if multiple facilities are being reported, the permit number for each facility reported needs to be provided. Please note that a utility that is in an area affected by a storm event must wait until the storm has passed before logging into the StormTracker website or calling the toll-free number to report their operational status.
How does an owner or operator of a utility get access to StormTracker? An owner or operator of a utility must contact their local district office in order to obtain the web address for the StormTracker system as well as a username and password for logging into the system. Please note that only a utility may obtain a username and password using their wastewater permit number.
For more information on spill reporting or hurricane preparedness, contact the appropriate DEP district office or the Water Compliance Enforcement program at 850-245-8567.
January 27, 2021 - 9:14am
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.