JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Bacteria levels in Pottsburg Creek remain elevated but are decreasing after raw sewage overflowed into the Jacksonville tributary on Sunday, according to a spokesperson for JEA.
The News4JAX I-TEAM reported on Monday that a malfunction at the utility’s Holiday Road lift station caused 90,000 gallons of sewage to overflow, much of it leaking into the nearby waterway.
The incident happened for about four and a half hours Sunday as several contractors were updating the facility.
The creek leads into the St. Johns River and is popular for fishing, boating and kayaking. On Monday, the Sky 4 drone showed some cloudy water nearby.
JEA crews said samples from Wednesday show a decrease in bacteria for the second day in a row.
Scientists tested three locations up and down stream.
They said the levels are now acceptable by Florida Department of Environmental Protection standards, although they are higher than they should be near the facility.
The JEA representative, Karen McCallister, said teams will continue to monitor the site around the clock and flush out the affected areas to remove contamination. Crews also applied lime to the ground around the facility to kill bacteria.
Until then, JEA is asking people to avoid swimming and fishing in the water.
McCallister said JEA was still investigating the cause of the overflow. Until then, she said, the utility wouldn’t release the names of the contractors involved. Contractors are using a bypass pump as they work to upgrade the facility with better piping, electrical wiring and an emergency generator.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened. In 2016, JEA said 1.1 million gallons of sewage overflowed in the same area during and after Hurricane Matthew.
Neighbor Michael Best said it’s reason there should be more oversight.
He is upset about the current situation, especially because, in the summer of 2021, he helped the I-TEAM uncover contractors pumping dirty water into the creek just blocks away. They were using a piece of private property along the waterway to swap dirt for a construction site when Best used his drone to discover milky water being pumped into the creek.
DEP investigators found the work was unpermitted and potentially hazardous.
“This is even worse I think,” Best said. “This is raw sewage. Whereas over there it was just dirty water.”
Jacksonville City Council member Kevin Carrico, who represents the area, told the I-TEAM he would work to find out what happened.