Gulf of Mexico
South Santa Rosa resident Casey Paw shows off a filter clogged with dried toilet paper he removed from the drinking water supply line on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. As many as 300 residents on Soundside Drive in Gulf Breeze had sewage-contaminated water pumped into their homes after a contactor mistakenly connected a sewer line into a water main for the area. Tony Giberson/

FL - FDEP proposes $3.2 million in penalties for contaminated water in Gulf Breeze

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued draft consent orders for Gulf Breeze, Midway Water System and Brown Construction of Northwest Florida proposing more than $3.2 million in penalties for the cross-connection that contaminated drinking water at about 340 homes in Gulf Breeze’s Soundside Drive neighborhood late last year.

Brown has been hit with about $2 million of the assessed penalties, Gulf Breeze with $1 million and Midway with $220,000.

The three parties have until Jan. 17 to review and respond to the orders.

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"I think it shows how serious it was. I mean, we're talking about people's drinking water," said Liz Pavelick, a member of Santa Rosa County environmental group Save Our Soundside. She added she was pleasantly surprised with the penalty amount FDEP proposed.

An employee with Brown Construction mistakenly connected a sewer line with a water main at a new house at 5000 Soundside Drive on April 1. The cross-connection went unnoticed until utility service was turned on to the house in late September.

Shortly after that, Midway Water System started to receive reports of low water pressure and clogged faucets, leading the utility to flush lines and conduct sampling until the error was ultimately discovered and corrected Oct. 18. For about three weeks, sewage-contaminated water ran through 340 homes on Soundside Drive.

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