Husband: Wife’s infection caused by sewage in Fort Lauderdale canals

PEMBROKE PINES, FLA. (WSVN) - A husband is speaking out after his wife was hospitalized because, he said, she contracted an infection while working in a canal in Fort Lauderdale that was contaminated by raw sewage from recent sewer pipe breaks.

John Steighner said Billie June Steighner, his wife, cannot work, and her infection has been tough on their family financially, emotionally and physically.

When asked how she was feeling while in the hospital, Billie June said, “It’s by far the worst thing I’ve ever been through, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to end anytime soon.”

John said his wife has been hospitalized at Memorial Hospital Pembroke for more than a week, and she is suffering from an infection that, he believes, is related to the numerous sewer main breaks that have plagued Fort Lauderdale since Dec. 10.

He added that he and his wife spend hours a day underwater cleaning barnacles off boats. At some point during a recent dive, John said a healing wound on Billie June’s leg was infected in the same water contaminated by millions of gallons of raw sewage.

“The entire groin area had swelled up — of my leg —  and I was running pretty high fevers then I came in, and they told me that they had to take me to surgery,” said Billie June.

“There’s a lot of sewage in the canals that we work in,” John said. “She had three more infections pop up, and instead of going back in to cut those out, they cut the entire wound out, so now she has maybe a 6-, 7-inch wound on her leg by about 2 or 3 inches deep. It’s a disaster.”

However, Billie June was not the only victim that may have gotten an infection from the contaminated waters.

John Tedder said he was catching bait last week when, he said, he caught a bacterial infection. He blamed the contamination for the infection to his leg and foot.

“I’ve been fishing on the dock since ’77,” Tedder said. “It happened overnight — just like that.”

Steighner said Billie June’s pain is excruciating and getting worse. He is praying for answers and for the nightmare to end.

“It’s going to be a long process. I just want to be better and go home,” Billie June said. “Losing my leg is the closest option, but I’m prepared to deal with whatever gets thrown my way.”

However, doctors have not confirmed the link to her infection to the raw sewage in the water.

“I would like to see her not in any pain. That’s for sure,” John said. “I want to see her healed up and back working, you know, she’s probably never going to dive again.”

“I have to be out of the water a minimum 18 months,” said Billie June.

When asked if he knew when Billie June was going home, John said he did not.

Fort Lauderdale city leaders will be addressing the recent sewer breaks during a meeting next week.

Before then, residents in the area who have been affected by the sewage spills will hold a protest at Tarpon River Brewing to “seek action on the city’s crumbling sewer system.”

Copyright 2020 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.