Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Buckman Wastewater Plant Outshines 3,500 Others; Once Dubbed the Worst Facility in Florida, EPA Rewards Its Turnaround with Top Prize

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Buckman Wastewater Plant Outshines 3,500 Others; Once Dubbed the Worst Facility in Florida, EPA Rewards Its Turnaround with Top Prize

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT GALNOR, The Times-Union

A JEA sewage treatment plant that was once a black eye on the utility's environmental record is now getting a gold star from federal regulators.

The Buckman Street Wastewater Treatment Facility, widely regarded as recently as 2000 as the worst treatment facility in Florida, won the top prize for operations and maintenance in the Clean Water Act awards.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency, which ordered JEA to significantly improve the plant in 1997, chose the Buckman plant over about 3,500 other plants close to its size.

Sparked partially by a lawsuit and by state and federal regulators, JEA officials have pumped more than $20 million into upgrading the plant's technology and improving the system in recent years.

The Buckman facility, off Talleyrand Avenue in a heavily industrial area, plagued the city for decades. Heavy rains -- a staple of Florida summers -- would cause treatment basins to overflow, sending sewage into the St. Johns River.

Buckman's poor reputation carried beyond Jacksonville into the Southeast, said Scott Kelly, JEA director of water, wastewater and reuse treatment.

"People knew where Buckman was and what it meant," Kelly said. "That's part of why everyone here is so excited about it, because it's come so far."

The plant struggled mightily with odor control and the stench from the plant hovered over several city blocks.

Between 1998 and 2001, the plant had 211 permit violations for discharging too much fecal coliform, metals, chlorine and solids into the river.

Since November 2001, there hasn't been a single permit violation, Kelly said.

Leaders of two of the major environmental groups advocating for the river -- the St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Stewards of the St. …

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