TITUSVILLE, FL – In December 2020, the City of Titusville learned that a pipe had burst at a community park known as Sand Point and spilled more than 7 million gallons of raw sewage. Soon after a pipe collapsed, the banks of the park were lined with deteriorating fish, wildlife carcasses, and signs that read, “recent contamination as a result of a sanity sewer force main break may have made this area unsafe to use.” As seven million gallons spilled, the city allowed a Christmas event known as Lights of Hope to take place directly next to the sewage-saturated pond, where food trucks and hot chocolate booths lined the streets, and the stench of sewage overtook the park. Multiple residents brought forward concerns with the decision not to move the event to another location.
The pond where the pipe collapsed connects with several retention ponds that lead directly to the Indian River Lagoon. The City of Titusville maintains that the sewage was contained and didn’t make significant impacts on the Indian River Lagoon.
Longtime resident Stan Johnston became aware of the sewage spill and took immediate action to warn the community of the dangers of being exposed to the waste. He attached handmade signs to stakes and put them around the park where the waste was released. Johnston attended every city council meeting and brought his concerns surrounding the failure to protect citizens’ health to the podium, sharing that friends and people he knew were getting headaches, nausea, and dizziness. His prompt actions to warn the community motivated the city to put in its own signage, but it was too late for a child who had already gone swimming and paddleboarding in the area.
Shortly after January 2, 2021, the child began complaining of back pain that escalated and spread to his legs. The mom immediately took him to Viera Hospital, which transferred him to Nemours Children’s Hospital. At Nemours, the child was given numerous treatments, including a blood transfusion and a spinal tap. The Spinal tap showed that he was suffering from a bacterial infection.
While at the hospital, the boy’s treating physician informed him that the sewage spill by the City of Titusville likely caused this type of bacterial infection. Another person who had been swimming near Sand Point Park had just been admitted to the hospital for the same bacterial infection, showing that this infection was due to the City’s sewage spill. This doesn’t include any information on people who went to local hospitals, such as Parish Medical Center, for infections around the time of the sewage spill.
The boy has undergone extensive medical treatments, spent over two months in the hospital, has received over six rounds of chemotherapy treatments, is still unable to walk, and will have lifelong medical issues due to this infection. The boys’ mother filed a lawsuit, and the City of Titusville filed a motion to dismiss the case in December of 2022, claiming they have no liability as a governmental entity, that they don’t have a duty to warn the general public, and are immune from such lawsuits. The next hearing is scheduled for April 5, 2023, at Moore Justice Center with Judge Scott Blaue.
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