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Sanitary Sewer Overflows
A Sanitary Sewer Overflow occurs when sewage (or wastewater) overflows from the sewer collection system. This means that sewage has come out of a broken pipe, manhole or pump station, rather than staying within the collection pipes and being sent to the wastewater treatment plants.
SSO events can happen for a number of reasons including broken pipes, pipe blockages, releases from air release valves provided in the system to alleviate major backups, flooding that causes manholes to go underwater for long periods of time, extreme storm events and loss of power at sewer pump stations.
Proper Disposal of Fats, Oils and Grease
Calendar Year SSO Events
JEA teams are alerted to SSOs as they occur and respond swiftly to identify and correct the cause of the overflow and clean the affected area.
SSOs Do Not Affect Drinking Water
The potable (drinking) water distributed to your home comes through a completely separate piping system than the wastewater that is collected from your home. The treatment facilities for water distribution and wastewater collection are completely separate.
Notification of SSOs in Your Area
If an overflow has occurred in your area and your property is affected, you will be notified by JEA via signage posted in the vicinity of the overflow and/or a door hanger on your residence or business. Barricade tape may also be used near the release location to temporarily limit access. JEA also posts events online and maintains a listing of the events that occur each month on the site below.
SSO Safety Concerns
The signage and/or door hanger notice on your residence or business will provide you with information related to that specific release. But in general, you should avoid any affected waterways and ground area surrounding the release. This includes refraining from water activities such as swimming, fishing and boating until you receive notification that the release has cleared.
Public Notice of Cleared SSOs
JEA will remove public SSO signage and any barricade tape from the affected areas once an area is cleared or the sample results have returned to pre-incident conditions. Customers notified of a release by door hanger will receive another door hanger advising the release has cleared. This is an indication that normal activities may resume. We also have information available on our website so customers to check frequently for updates on jea.com.
Monitoring Environmental and Health Impacts
We take the health of the environment and the health of our community very seriously. Here’s the process JEA follows:
- JEA cleans up, removes and/or disinfects areas where sewage releases onto the ground.
- When streams or ponds are potentially impacted, we take water samples at the overflow sites.
- We then test these samples for indications of elevated bacteria levels (fecal coliform) in the affected streams or ponds. The results are available after 24 hours.
- If the tests show that bacteria levels are elevated, JEA continues to monitor the sites until results show that bacteria levels have returned to normal background conditions.
Annual Amount of SSOs
In a typical year, there are approximately 35 to 40 overflows from the sewer system in the JEA service territory that meet state level reporting requirements. These are events that impact waters of the State, exceed 1,000 gallons in volume or may cause a potential threat to public health or the environment. JEA has made tremendous improvements in the wastewater management system for our community since being given responsibility for the system in 1997. Annually our goal is to continue to reduce the number of SSOs that occur in our community.
Have you ever noticed how the retention ponds around our communities are at the lowest geographical point? JEA’s pumping/lift stations are similarly situated. This placement allows gravity to help wastewater easily move through pipes to the pumping/lift stations – much like how gravity allows runoff to reach neighborhood retention ponds.
Once you send wastewater away from your residence or business through outbound pipes, it travels through the sewer piping system to a pumping/lift station. At the lift station, hydraulics pump wastewater up near the surface – but still contained within the station. Once it is brought to the higher elevation, the wastewater enters other pipes and gravity takes over again. The wastewater flows to the next pumping/lift station it encounters. This process continues until the wastewater reaches its final destination: JEA’s wastewater treatment facilities.
SSOs in the Local News
You may be wondering why you are hearing more in the news about SSOs. One reason is because of Hurricane Matthew.
- The October 2016 storm was a historic weather event for our region; there has not been a similar storm here since 1898. JEA lost power in about half of its service area
- The extreme winds and weather conditions during the storm made it unsafe for JEA employees to work for a period of time. This left a number of the lift stations without power and unable to function until the weather conditions improved and JEA crews could resume work.
- During the storm we experienced approximately 67 events, most due to electric outages.
- JEA had back-up generators available as a redundancy at some sites, plus a number of portable generators that could be transported to lift stations as needed. With the number of power outages and lift stations out, it took JEA several hours to restore power, restart generators or deploy portable generators. In several instances, the back-up generators did not perform as designed.
Improvements for the Future
JEA is continuously working to reduce SSO incidents. After the historic event of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, JEA began an assessment and review process to look at its wastewater system, backup generation plans and operating standards and practices to improve system responses. This review, recommendation and improvement process is multi-phased and currently underway.
SSOs During Hurricane Matthew
This map shows the sanitary sewer overflows associated with Hurricane Matthew. JEA identified, assessed, and monitored these sites as required until they were “cleared”. Clearance means that the fecal coliform samples in any affected adjacent waterbody have returned to normal levels. Sites cleared for resumption of normal activities are shown on the map in green. All of the sites associated with Hurricane Matthew have been cleared.
Empowering Our Community
At JEA, community and service go hand in hand. Our employees volunteer their time and serve in several organizations throughout Jacksonville.