Loblolly Woods Nature Park reopened early Thursday after being shut down for nearly a week due to raw sewage overflow.
The park closed April 6 after two separate spills resulted in about 615,000 gallons of wastewater being released into the area. The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department is fining Gainesville Regional Utilities $292 for the spills and will fine GRU contractor Oelrich Construction, Inc. $146, said county spokesperson Mark Sexton.
On April 5, Oelrich Construction struck a main sewer line while working in the park, resulting in about 150,000 gallons of sewage leaking into the area, about 4,000 of which drained into Possum Creek, according to a GRU report.
The next morning, GRU was notified of another incident, this time a hose at 2610 NW Eighth Ave. was knocked out of place, resulting in another 465,000 gallons of wastewater being released, according to the report. GRU doesn’t know what disturbed the bypass hose.
GRU and Oelrich Construction were responsible for the cleanup and ultimately recovered about 250,000 gallons of wastewater from the site, GRU spokesperson David Warm wrote in an email.
GRU anticipates Oelrich Construction will pay for the fines associated with the accidents, Tony Cunningham, a GRU Water and Wastewater officer, wrote in an email. GRU was issued two fines because it owns and operates the wastewater collection system and is responsible for the permit.
In January 2017, a sewage spill affected UF’s campus when 2,000 gallons of wastewater spilled into a creek that connects to Lake Alice, according to Alligator archives. The area, which was sanitized by Florida Division of Emergency Management State Watch Office, was affected environmentally, but drinking water was deemed safe.
Linda Demetropoulos, a nature operations manager for the park, said Loblolly Woods is safe for visitors but they should still use caution.
“Normally visitors are instructed not to access the water area, so that has not changed,” she said.