Residents of the City of Valdosta, Fla., and the areas located downstream of the Withlacoochee River have been warned to avoid contact with water from the river because of concerns that it may be contaminated, the Florida Department of Public Health has announced.
The warning is linked with the heavy rain that hit Florida over the past week. Stormwater contaminated with wastewater has flowed into the Withlacoochee River and is likely to affect other communities situated downstream, the department explained.
According to Henry Hicks, utilities director for the City of Valdosta, the heavy rain has prevented water from percolating into the ground, leading to one million gallons of untreated stormwater spilling into local waterways. The City of Valdosta has reported several instances of stormwater combined with sewage overflowing from manholes.
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Several parts of the city have suffered from the flooding. There are still neighborhoods where untreated wastewater has filled yards and streets. This is not the first time these areas have dealt with sewage overflows and residents have started a lawsuit against the city, Tallahassee-based station WCTV reported.
If residents happen to come in contact with contaminated water from the river, they should wash their hands immediately afterward and especially before eating or drinking, recommended deputy state epidemiologist Dr. Carina Blackmore. Children and elderly residents, as well as those with weaker immune systems, should be particularly careful, the department pointed out.