POLK COUNTY, Fla. — People in Caloosa Village are dealing with a situation that really stinks … literally.
Neighbor Mary Wagner reached out to 10Investigates, complaining of human feces, sanitary napkins and toilet paper in her yard. This isn’t just her problem: We showed up to chat with Wagner and found five other neighbors waiting to share similar issues.
“The skies get dark and that’s when we get panic attacks,” one neighbor said.
Other neighbors say the issues aren’t just in their yards. “It’s coming into our bathroom or our shower.”
Now, those residents say they’re done and they want changes.
We had no idea how bad it was until we showed up. The smell was nearly unbearable and the view -- just as bad. Our crew had to sanitize their boots with bleach and water before getting back into the vehicle to head out of the neighborhood.
So, who’s to blame?
“If you stand on a brick, you can see (the) sewer plant and that’s where the problem is lying,” Wagner told us while peering over her fence at Crooked Lake Park Sewerage Co.
While we were interviewing Wagner and her neighbors, the sewage pumping trucks drove into their neighborhood. So, 10Investigates tried to speak to some of the employees. They wanted nothing to do with us. Several of the employees got out of the pumping trucks and into personal vehicles and sped away.
Another employee got into a work pickup and backed nearly five blocks down the street to get away from reporter Jennifer Titus and her producer.
Titus called the sewage plant for comment, but nobody has returned our calls.
The Environmental Protection Agency did, however, immediately call us back. Officials there say the issues began on Aug. 2.
The EPA also sent us an email detailing the situation saying, “The Department of Environmental Protection is actively investigating Crooked Lake Park Sewerage Company due to recent sanitary sewer overflows occurring from the plant. Once the system is back in compliance, the facility will be required to provide the department long-term plans for improving the facility and preventing future issues.”
10Investigates asked what is being done to help residents, but so far have not gotten a response.
Wagner and her neighbors say that is just not good enough.
Their only hope now is that the leak gets stopped so they can figure out how to clean up the mess left behind.
The EPA says they have been on site five times since the issues started earlier in the month. We did reach out to the Polk County commissioner in charge of that area of Avon Park; he says he is aware of the problems with the treatment plant and says he’s been told the plant can’t handle the amount of wastewater that is coming in.
He also has no problem citing the plant if that is what needs to be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
So, what can you do if you’re faced with an issue like this? The first step is to call the EPA and the city and county you live in to report the issues. You can report an issue to the EPA here on its website.
Do you have a consumer concern? Want us to look into something for you? If you do, you need to turn to 10!
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