Reclaimed Water: Nocatee and Beyond

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How do we go from this…… to this?

That’s just one of the questions Coastal Oaks resident Mike Domboski is asking about his reclaimed water system.  When Domboski moved here from upstate New York three years ago, he’d never heard of reclaimed water. Since then, he’s been generally pleased with it.

Mike Domboski says: “and we’re saving the aquifer because we’re not using that good water by using the reclaimed water.”

Domboski wants to know about the process …… exactly how does JEA clean up wastewater so customers can use it on their lawn?

Short answer:  bacteria just like this eat the solids in the wastewater. It’s their food source.

Casey Nettles/JEA Reclaimed Water Expert says:  “We use the bacteria to do the initial cleaning, which is what we have done for the last 40 years, and on top of that level we meet reclaimed standards, which means we have to filter the water until it has very low solids if any solids in the water, as well as high level disinfection.”

So …. Wastewater travels to a facility like Blacks Ford in northeastern St. Johns County where bacteria feast on the solids. After that JEA filters the water to ensure no solids remain. Then we zap it with high-intensity ultra-violet light to reach the high-level disinfection standards needed for reclaimed.

Reclaimed water is then stored in ponds around Nocatee to irrigate common areas around the clubhouse and road medians.

But because the demand for reclaimed is growing so quickly, JEA built this new storage tank off County Road 210 to store even more of this precious resource.

(SOT/TC: 14:06  “They say it’s non-potable, non-drinkable. If someone did drink it, would they just get a bad gastro-entritis?” 14:15)

(SOT/TC: casey sot 3:10 – 3:20 “I can honestly say that over the years, I’ve gotten more than one drop in my mouth and I’m still here, talking today so it’s very safe.”)

Still … in the abundance of caution, don’t drink the reclaimed water, don’t swim in the reclaimed ponds, and don’t let your pets do those things either.

Question:  Is reclaimed good for grass?

Casey says: “The wonderful thing about reclaimed water is up until say 20 years ago, JEA, most if not all of the water that we treated was sent back into rivers and things like that. With reclaimed water it’s a very valuable freshwater source that could be used for your vegetation and plants your yards, what makes it especially good is it contains low levels of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous and things like that, which could help you prevent from having to go out and purchase additional fertilizers.”

Question: Does reclaimed water cost more?

The rates for reclaimed water and the rates for an irrigation water service are exactly the same. But … reclaimed users must pay an extra monthly charge to cover the costs of meeting regulatory requirements.

By the way, water restrictions imposed by the St. Johns River Water Management District do not apply to reclaim services. But you don’t want to waste your money either. Irrigating in the middle of the day means a lot of the water you put on your lawn will be lost through evaporation.  It’s better to do set your timers for about 7:00 p.m. since there’s still a few hours of sunlight in the summer. Your yard will dry out a bit before dark, and prevent any issues with fungus if you water in the early, early morning.

“One of the other questions I have, which caught us off guard when we moved here about three years ago, all of a sudden we had a notice on our door from JEA saying we had to get our backflow preventer valve checked.”

Backflow preventers must be inspected every two years to protect the water supply for the entire community.  Backflow preventers are hooked to your drinking water pipes to ensure reclaimed water doesn’t get into them somehow. They must be inspected and tagged by a certified inspector.  

In the end Mike Domboski says he likes living in a reclaimed water community Nocatee and he feels good knowing he’s making a difference by helping save the Floridan aquifer.

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