JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Bob Steele is visiting his daughter from out of the country, at her home on Van Gundy Road in Northwest Jacksonville. He tells First Coast News he couldn’t flush the toilet during yesterday’s intense rainfall.

“Ooh, that hell,” he said, not mincing words, “comin’ up, it was something like this,” he continued, raising his hand above the presently normal water level. The same, he said, happened in the toilets and bathtubs in both bathrooms.

Bob Steele describes water level during Wednesday storm sewage backup into toilets and tubs at his daughter's home in Northwest Jacksonville. (PHOTO: FIRST COAST NEWS)

Steele vented frustration about what he perceives J.E.A. has done so far.

“You see all these people around, they don’t do a damn thing, they don’t do nothin’.”

But JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce said the utility is indeed aware and acting.

“The action that we took is, we applied lime to the impacted area and we posted signs,” said Boyce, clarifying that the overflow consisted largely of rainwater, as opposed to raw sewage alone.

“So, it was pretty clean – as sewage water goes?,” I asked, bringing a chuckle but then a serious answer from Boyce: “You know, I would say that, certainly, if it did back into the house they should file a claim with the City of Jacksonville,” she explained, “so that they can be made whole again.”

At least two homes on Van Gundy Road had the J.E.A. signs warning of sewer overflows, but they weren’t the only ones affected. Lania Todd lives next door to one of the two.

“We have two bathrooms,” Todd described to First Coast News, “so it was coming out. My Momma’s room, it had her whole room flooded, and then the whole hallway.

Van Gundy Road resident Lania Todd describes damage inside her home caused by sewage backup during Wednesday storm. (PHOTO: FIRST COAST NEWS)

A pile of discarded furniture and carpeting lay on Todd’s front lawn near the curb. She said she’s lived in the home six or seven years and the only similar previous incident was the result of a pipe breakage by a construction crew, not weather. And though the Steele home didn’t appear to sustain visible interior damage, Todd said hers did. Conversely – if not ironically – her description of the water itself was fairly benign.

Water-damaged furniture and carpeting in front of Van Gundy Road home in Northwest Jacksonville. (PHOTO: FIRST COAST NEWS)

“It was clear and stuff, I mean, we didn’t see any nasty stuff or anything,” she said, contrasting with Bob Steele’s description.

“Well, you know what it is, like warm coming up. You know, smelling,” he said with a grimace and a sniffing sound, “coming up, coming up.”

Gerri Boyce put the situation into perspective, explaining that J.E.A. faced a sewage surge of 18 million gallons on Wednesday, three times the 6 million on a typical day in Northwest Jacksonville.

She also explained some plumbing information potentially useful to many homeowners.

“Most houses have what we call a cleanout valve,” Boyce began. “Typically it is a PVC pipe that comes out in the yard somewhere close to the house. And the whole purpose of this valve is that if there is a sewage backup, you take the top off the valve so that the sewage backs up in the yard, not in the house.”

“Unfortunately, what we see in many cases is, people find them unattractive, so they pave over them or put plants over them, or put pavers over them.

“And they should not do this because it’s very important, Boyce concluded. “The sole purpose of them being there is to prevent sewage from backing up in the house.”

To inquire about filing a sewage surge damage claim with the City of Jacksonville, call 904-630-CITY.