JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Besides leaving a trail of storm damage in its wake, Tropical Storm Elsa caused a big stink among Jacksonville residents living in the Murray Hill neighborhood.
They were surprised Thursday to find out that storm waters overwhelmed the sewer collection system in their neighborhood Wednesday night, sending 1,000 gallons of raw sewage spilling out of a manhole cover and into the road near Nelson and Mayflower streets.
The News4JAX I-TEAM learned about the overflow through a release from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, one of two such incidents JEA reported to the agency. Residents who spoke with the I-TEAM were caught off-guard when they found out about it.
“I have a basement full of what could be sewage water, which could not be okay to live in right now,” said resident Joe Morris, who told the I-TEAM he didn’t know about the leak until News4JAX told him.
Morris said the standing water pooling in his basement has a different color than rainwater, and that it looks like it’s seeping out of the ground, not from cracks in the foundation of his home. Based on that, he said he can only draw one conclusion.
“I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s the sewage water,” he said.
Like Morris, Leslie Dawson said she was unaware of the raw sewage that DEP confirms was bubbling out of the manhole at Nelson and Mayflower streets. The incident, which happened between 9:45 p.m. and 11:40 p.m., left her disgusted.
“I can’t even imagine we’ve got all that raw sewage and no one is letting us know about it because I would be over there trying to get that pooled water out,” Dawson said. “I don’t know what’s in that water on the street. It’s not safe. It’s not right.”
Aside from the sewage in Murray Hill, JEA reported another 1,000 gallons of sewage overflowed from a manhole along Blanding Boulevard near the car dealerships north of Duclay Road.
The I-TEAM asked JEA if residents were notified of the overflows. In response, the city-owned utility said its policy is to post a notice on its website and provide another notice to the DEP’s database:
“JEA followed its established (Sanitary Sewage Overflow) notification protocol by adding a notice to JEA.com … and another notice to the DEP Pollution Notice database. Customers are directly notified only if the overflow directly affects their properties. Based on our analysis, there was no direct impact to customers’ properties around Nelson St., Mayflower St., or Blanding Blvd.”
Murray Hill residents who spoke with the I-TEAM on Thursday disagreed, saying the overflow directly affected their properties. They said they want to be notified in a different manner if it happens again.
“Thank you for telling us about it,” Dawson told the I-TEAM. “It would have been nice to know about it. I think communication is key for everything. People will be a lot more pleasant and helpful and not have an outrageous response. Like right now, I am angry at this point about it.”
JEA said the environmental impact of the overflow was “very minimal due to the dilution from the rain.”
The utility said it is doing smoke-testing to identify the source of leaks, clean-outs or broken pipes linked to the overflow and will make repairs as needed. It will also review pipes and pump systems in the area to see if they’re large enough.
JEA said it also sampling water in McCoys Creek and the Ortega River as part of an effort to monitor bacteriological levels in those impacted waterways.
Morris believes even more can be done to head off any future overflows.
“When you know you’re going to have 3, 4, 5 inches of rain in an hour, you should have response teams available,” he said.