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Top US Water and Wastewater Disasters

The water and wastewater industry is like that quiet relative who projects a silent confidence. The presence feels strong. Not much is known about this presence, but it’s always there to keep communities happy and healthy. But there are moments when mistakes like human error or financial issues occur and can cause an assortment of disarray.
Below is a list of some of these examples that show significant US water and wastewater catastrophes. If you know of other water and wastewater disasters, please email us at
South Florida
In 2011, aging pipes burst at rapid rates causing more than 2.5 million gallons of raw, untreated sewage to flow into neighbourhoods and waterways in South Florida.
Water wells were closed to prevent illness and many sea creatures were killed due to the sewage outbreak. City officials and environmentalists suggested that improper maintenance and old pipes were the cause of these ruptures.
“The general trend has been in the direction of more problems because everything’s getting older,” said Michael Hambor, Southeast wastewater compliance manager for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “The impact of people trying to keep taxes low has had an impact on maintenance. You can’t just stick a pipe in the ground and that’s that.”
Waikiki, Hawaii
In March 2006, Waikiki, Hawaii, experienced their biggest wastewater spill in nearly 20 years. A sewer pipe rupture pumped 48 million gallons of raw sewage in the Ala Wai Canal. It lasted for six days, and the sewage contaminated many beaches and coastlines in and around Waikiki. The heavy rainfalls that the city was experiencing during that time overwhelmed and exasperated the pipes that were installed in 1964.
Waikiki, Hawaii
Phoenix, Arizona
In October 2006, a 60-inch water main broke, causing an 8-foot sinkhole and flooded businesses in a five-block radius. The rupture occurred in east Phoenix, south of the Sky Harbor Airport.
2006_Phoenix Water 3
Video still from via Sewer History
2006_Phoenix Water 1
Video still from via Sewer History

TNphoto Tatsuya Nakagawa
Tatsuya Nakagawa is the VP of Marketing and co-founder of Castagra Products, a storage tank and wastewater coatings manufacturing company that is highly acclaimed for its sustainable coatings and cold weather coating applications. Castagra products are NSF-61 certified and are used by the world’s top water and wastewater contractors.