Jeremy's Notebook

Bayou Grande Spill: 72,000 Gallons

June 7, 2013

Yesterday, it was announced that 35,000 gallons of untreated sewage had spewed into Bayou Grande due to a broken water line. Emerald Coastkeeper Sava Varazo was pegging the number at about 100,000 gallons. This morning, Emerald Coast Utilities Authority Spokesman Jim Roberts provided the official figure: “I think it’s 72,000.”

“They sent too few trucks and when they capacitated out, the rest hit the water,” Varazo said, describing ECUA’s response as “half-ass.” “You can’t say, ‘let’s go back and get more trucks.’ It’s coming down the pipe and if it doesn’t go in the truck it goes in the water.”

The environmentalist, who is also a former Florida Department of Environmental Protection staffer, said that the spill was indicative of the system’s aging infrastructure. He argues that ECUA—which is bound by a DEP consent order to address its infrastructure issues— is not dealing with the problems quick enough.

“These are the kinds of issues that you know are going to happen, and it happened,” Varazo said. “You need to be proactive, and instead you’re still in a reactive state.”

Roberts said that this incident was not due to the system’s infrastructure issues. He said it was due to a “PVC pipe out there that basically fractured and splintered.”

“No. This? No,” he said. “This was an accident. The pipe just gave way. You can’t project these things.”

The ECUA spokesman said that when the spill was detected, the lift station was turned off, causing an overflow from manholes. This was apparently due to the high volume of usage at the time.

“The break actually happened during the high-time of usage, Navy base usage,” Roberts explained.

ECUA dispatched three tankers and four “vac-trucks” to the scene. The trucks sucked up the sewage and transferred it to the 6,500-gallon tankers.

Roberts said the flow-rate of the backup was between 800 and 1,000 gallons per minute. It took about 20 minutes for the three tankers to fill up.

“It was just too much volume in wastewater for the trucks to capture,” Roberts said, explaining that when the tankers were full, they transferred the sewage, then returned for more.

The ECUA spokesman also said that the sewage spill did not go directly into the waters of Bayou Grande. He said that the sewage release first traveled across a grassy area, at which point it was sprayed with the chemical Neu-tra-dis.

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  • Smelly June 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    No ECUA staff was hunkered down in their taj mahal admin building playing video games

  • CJ Lewis June 8, 2013 at 9:30 am

    The ECUA website contains a link to a June 7 ECUA News item about the June 6 Escambia County Heath Department’s Health Alert about the June 5 spill. The aerial photo graphic attached to the alert shows where the line broke and you can see the likely route the sewage travelled to get to the water. Did anyone at ECUA immediately call the Command Duty Officer at NAS Pensacola or at least run over and tell the Bayou Grande Marina staff? If not, why not?

  • Teresa June 8, 2013 at 7:47 am

    ECUA can’t handle the sewage during ” High usage ” time, but are forcing everyone to switch to sewer. That makes a lot of sense!

  • Poo poo June 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Go Sava – he is not buying what ECUA is selling. Get ready for more rate increases as pressure mounts to address the rotting pipes, boil water notices and poo poo spills that have become all too common. Help me here Dr. Walker – why have you kept your head in the sand for the last 20 years?

  • Navy point person June 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Thank you very much for the article. Good Job