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:
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.