Environment Pensacola

ECUA confirms raw sewage caused by City of Pensacola stormwater failure

June 22, 2017

Inweekly obtained this email between ECUA board member Lois Benson and ECUA Executive Director Steve Sorrell. We had earlier reported that the human waste on Devilliers Street may have been caused by a failure of a lift station. We later found out that there was another cause.

Benson asked Sorrell whether the raw sewage flooding the Tanyard area, one block west of Pensacola City Hall, was caused by a failure of the City’s stormwater system.

Here is his reply:

Lois,
You are correct, the City of Pensacola stormwater system failed and overflowed into and overwhelmed our sanitary sewer system. Our pump station did not fail and neither did any our downtown systems which is different than is being reported by Rick Outzen and others. The City system failed and drained stormwater into our system.

Most people do not know the difference between a stormwater sewer system and a sanitary sewer system. Sanitary systems are for human and other waste materials and are generally sealed and composed of relatively small diameter pipes because of limited flows. The flows are pumped to treatment facilities like our wastewater plants, not the Bay. Stormwater systems are composed of very large diameter pipes designed to accommodate rain events and direct the flows to the Bay. No sanitary sewer system anywhere is designed with sufficient capacity to control stormwater, so when a stormwater system fails and dumps into our sanitary system, we get a surcharging which we cannot control or accommodate.

The downtown streets were flooded because of a failed stormwater system. This surplus stormwater drained via manholes and other openings into the ECUA sanitary system causing our sanitary sewer system to surcharge. Our pumps and pipes worked perfectly, but will never be able to control that amount of drained stormwater.

Boil water notices are only required and issued for potable (drinking) water contamination concerns. This did not apply to the potable water supply since it is sealed and was not affected by the storm event flooding. We have discussed stormwater improvements that are needed with both the City and County officials because of the overflows into our sanitary sewer system. They understand and will incrementally make changes to improve their systems as funds are available.

Steve

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  • Jim Faxlanger June 23, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    they keep getting voted back in, nobody’s fault but ours.

  • Laurie Murphy June 23, 2017 at 11:19 am

    In reply to CJ Lewis’s comment: yes, I agree that a more detailed description of how the two systems connect is warranted. I would also have to agree with the fact that infrastructure improvements that mitigate potential health and environmental hazards should not wait, or become less of a priority than other items funded. Maybe the use of the term failure could be misconstrued. I believe the problem is the result of a failure to improve infrastructure. Let’s stop spending money on studies to improve infrastructure if there is no intention in following the recommendations thereof.

  • Herb Shelton June 23, 2017 at 5:41 am

    System failure reflects leadership failure. Cast out all the guilty!!

  • Terry Preston June 22, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    And the ECUA guys told me there was no problem the last time it happened……hmmm….

  • CJ Lewis June 22, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    It would be helpful to explain t use readers how storm water can enter the sanitary sewer system. To this point, I had assumed they were separate systems. The ECUA letter infers that there are access points where storm water can enter the sanitary sewer system. It would be interesting to know if ECUA played a role in approving the design of the city’s stormwater retention pond. You would have thought the city would have at least consulted with ECUA to ensure the risk was mitigated. The most interesting part is the last two sentences, “We have discussed stormwater improvements that are needed with both the City and County officials because of the overflows into our sanitary sewer system. They understand and will incrementally make changes to improve their systems as funds are available.” Are those discussions recent as in the last few days or weeks or did ECUA make the city and county aware of this issue a while back and it has been kept a big secret. Given the potential risks, it is hard to understand why anyone would want to wait until “funds are available.” This seems like a crisis that needs to be fixed now.

  • Raul garcia June 22, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Let the finger pointing begin

  • Mr reality June 22, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Another roads inc failure?

  • Gloria G Horning, Ph.D. June 22, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Can’t make this “sh%+” up.. my property and others are now a hazardous waste site!