Due to the heavy rains and the loss of power caused by Hurricane Sally, Okaloosa County’s Water and Sewer Department is dealing with several sanitary sewer overflows in its County West service area, which services unincorporated Mary Esther.
The large majority of County West’s 26 lift stations, which are serviced by the Russell Stephenson Water Reclamation Facility, were overwhelmed and/or submerged during Sally’s move onshore September 16th. The area received 22” of rain – 19” of it on the 16th.
As the area lost power during the storm, the situation further deteriorated for the lift stations.
During the storm, Water and Sewer were closely monitoring the system and the associated alarms through various forms of telemetry, according to a notice from the county. However, the wastewater collection system was not able to handle prolonged mass power outages paired with the unprecedented rain.
The system typically, in which all 26 lift stations were functioning well before the storm made landfall, flows around 500,000 gallons per day on an average day.
“Okaloosa County Water and Sewer Staff is now completely focused on minimizing the amount of sanitary sewer overflows by using stationary generators, portable generators, and bypass pumps,” said Water and Sewer Deputy Director Mark Wise, “Full restoration is not possible until commercial power is restored. Gulf Power is fully working towards that.”
Water and Sewer staff is coordinating with the Florida Department of Environmental and the Florida Department of Health to estimate the spill volume.
Sanitary sewer overflows from this collection system follow the historical drainage patterns and ultimately discharge into Santa Rosa Sound.
“We will continue to work this spill until power is back on and operations have resumed.” Wise continued.
Water contaminated with wastewater presents health hazards. The county is urging residents to not enter the water at this time.