City Labels TR Records Request on Sewage Spill “Confidential”

City Labels TR Records Request on Sewage Spill “Confidential”

Documents requested by TR through a formal records request concerning the operations of sewer lift stations during a storm has been labeled confidential by City officials.

During Hurricane Hermine power outages led to more than 1.6 million gallons of sewage spilling in Tallahassee. Based on media reports, the outage left all of the city’s 102 pump stations powerless. This resulted in sewage being dumped on the ground and into ditches near Springhill Road.

A number of people are asking questions.

For example, the Wakulla Springs Alliance is asking why did it take so long for the spill to be reported and if the back-up generators were tested before Hermine hit.

TR submitted a request that sought “documents that describe emergency procedures to keep sewer lift stations operating during a power outage.”

The City chose not to fulfill the request and declared the documents were deemed “confidential” by state law.

The City’s response is below:


Please see below regarding the request for” documents that describe emergency procedures to keep sewer lift stations operating during power a outage”

The requested records are declare confidential by state law, 119.071(3)(a)

(3) Security.–

(a) 1. As used in this paragraph, the term “security system plan” includes all:

  1. Records, information, photographs, audio and visual presentations, schematic diagrams, surveys, recommendations, or consultations or portions thereof relating directly to the physical security of the facility or revealing security systems;
  2. Threat assessments conducted by any agency or any private entity;
  3. Threat response plans;
  4. Emergency evacuation plans;
  5. Sheltering arrangements; or
  6. Manuals for security personnel, emergency equipment, or security training.
  7. A security system plan or portion thereof for:
  8. Any property owned by or leased to the state or any of its political subdivisions; or
  9. Any privately owned or leased property

held by an agency is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution. This exemption is remedial in nature, and it is the intent of the Legislature that this exemption apply to security system plans held by an agency before, on, or after the effective date of this paragraph.

12 Responses to "City Labels TR Records Request on Sewage Spill “Confidential”"

  1. Does this mean that the City of Tallahassee is going to be fined by the State Department of Environmental Protection? Do I see a new tax or fee coming to cover another case of the usual COT ineptness?

    Somebody needs a raise.

  2. I love our springs, rivers, lakes and parks but the Wakulla Springs Alliance has driven up our sewer costs high enough. Before pointing fingers and demanding more, they should evaluate their own environmental impacts: according to the Wakulla Chamber of Commerce’s website, there were 10,490 occupied homes in Wakulla County as of 2010. How many are on septic and how many are on sewer?

    Let’s pretend only 2,500 households and businesses in Wakulla County are still on septic. At 300 gallons per day per household (me and the wife, and our Australian shepherd average about 380 gallons each day) that’s 750,000 gallons of sewage dumped in the ground every day! At least 20 million gallons of sewage dumped by Wakulla County residents so far this month!


  3. Steve – you can circumvent the city by going to DEP. The city is required to report any spill greater than 1,000 gallons to the state warning point. You may also want to ask about the permit requirements to have backup power for lift stations. Bear in mind, the city was previously under a consent order for failing to maintain their sewer system. It may likely still be active.

    Contact me if you would like more details.

  4. It’s a crying shame that the government of the people can do as they please while us tax paying Americans pay their pay checks and we better not comply with the rules they make. The city of Valdosta has been getting by for years dumping millions of gallons of untreated sewage that’s running through creeks and rivers all the way to our gulf passing through the historic swannee river. Springs and well waterincluding mine has tested positive for ecolli without paying for testing or water we have to buy or cleaning up our wells after a flood.

  5. I would be curious to know if the city has a written comprehensive emergency plan. To say an emergency plan/procedure is a security plan seems like a bit of a stretch.

    Any wastewater spill over 1,000 gallons or “which may threaten the environment or public health are required to be immediately reported by a utility to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.”

    You may want to consider asking either the DEP or the Florida Division of Emergency Management (to whom the city was required to make the notification) for any related records.

  6. The situation certainly doesn’t appear good, although the facts may take some time to extract from the city. If the backup generators weren’t tested before the storm hit (when there was plenty of time to do so), that is criminally negligent to a fair degree.
    My guess from this city government: They will stonewall for the maximum time they can, but eventually yet another in a long series of lawsuits against this city will result.

  7. I think it is important to know which city employee signed or issued your refusal response and if they referenced authorization to do so from any other city employee.
    Exposure is important.
    I have seen past patterns of very low level employees denying requests.

  8. Narrow the scope of your request to exclude security related matters. Specify you do not want physical security data or plans. For instance ask for the maintenance logs for the pumps, names of maintenance personnel doing the work, etc. Denial of such a request will strongly indicate that the city is concealing embarrassing failures in its preparations for the storm.

    1. I agree with Whiskey. And the Wakulla Springs Alliance deserves a response if this community is serious at all about environmental issues.

    2. They’re not required to create documents that don’t exist, so in addition to requesting maintenance logs (or service calls/requests) you may have better success requesting the timesheets for all Facilities/Maintenance employees for the last 7-10 days of August and the entire month of September. Additionally, you can request all emails (including attachments) sent and received by all Facilities/Maintenance employees for a week before and a week after the storm. Will probably raise more questions than answers, but it should at least give you a starting point.

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