COLUMN: Better water quality notification needed

Nathan Boyles, Commissioners View

It has come to my attention that the sewage spills that occurred over the holiday weekend went unreported to the public for nearly two days.

As a total of more than half a million gallons of raw sewage washed into Santa Rosa Sound and Tom's Bayou on Saturday, no one notified the public. The leaks were the result of failures in sewer systems in the City of Fort Walton and the City of Valparaiso. 

On Sunday, citizens taking advantage of intermittent breaks in the weather to enjoy the the sound and bayou were potentially exposed to raw sewage. 

A breakdown in communication clearly occurred to allow such substantial spills to go unreported. While the extreme weather our area has been dealing with may explain the system failures, it does not explain or justify the failure to notify the public about the hazard.

While the county was not involved in operating the failed systems, I am nevertheless calling for an investigation into the failure to immediately communicate the spills to the local media for distribution to the public. 

I am requesting that officials from the Health Department and the cities of Valparaiso and Fort Walton Beach appear at our commission meeting on Tuesday to brief the commission on the factors that led to the failure to notify the public and to discuss ways that such failures can be prevented in the future.

The health and safety of our citizens requires it.

The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. July 16 at the Water and Sewer building in Fort Walton Beach.

Nathan Boyles is Okaloosa County Commissioner, District 3.