Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Despite Spillage, Sewers Fair Better; JEA: Irma Impact a Fifth of Matthew

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Despite Spillage, Sewers Fair Better; JEA: Irma Impact a Fifth of Matthew

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

JEA suffered 55 cases of sewage spills when Hurricane Irma dumped rain and knocked out power, but the utility said it did better this time than during Hurricane Matthew in controlling how much sewage overflowed.

During Hurricane Matthew in October, JEA reported about 70 sewage incidents. Those resulted in about 10 million gallons of spillage. The amount this time will be about onefifth of that, said JEA Chief Executive Officer Paul McElroy.

St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said JEA must do more to strengthen its safeguards. She said power failures caused roughly half the sewage spills that impacted the St. Johns River or its tributaries. Power losses and equipment malfunctions resulted in 1 million gallons of raw sewage spilling, she said.

"While JEA has made improvements since Hurricane Matthew, there is more that should be done before the next storm to provide necessary backup power generation to reduce raw sewage spills into our waterways," she said.

JEA's sewer system has almost 1,400 lift stations, which pump sewage from lower to higher elevations as it flows through pipes. When the lift stations aren't working, sewage backs up and eventually spills into the open at the stations or from manhole covers.

During Hurricane Matthew in October, JEA had about 250 generators installed at those lift stations, plus 60 portable generators that crews could take to lift stations that lost power.

JEA then expanded its equipment to 350 fixed generators at lift stations, plus 100 rental generators for the lift stations and 80 portable generators.

McElroy said compared to Matthew, the sheer volume of rain was a bigger factor. JEA calculates Irma dumped 200 billion gallons of water on the utility's service territory, which covers most of Duval County along with parts of St. Johns and Clay counties.

He said the sewage system handled 600 million gallons for treatment, which is double the normal flow. …

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