JEA CEO: We did great, but we could have done better

Julia Janae is on your side. 10/18/2016

JEA's Chief Executive Officer faced board members and their tough questions about the restoration of power and other utility complications during Hurricane Matthew Monday afternoon. 

CEO Paul McElroy said during the "1 in 100 years storm" their JEA performed great, but could have performed better.

JEA board members relayed the concerns they received from the community during Friday's meeting, the first meeting since the Oct. 8 storms.

Of top concern was JEA's estimation that a substantial amount of customers would have complete restoration by "midnight on Monday" referring to Oct. 10. An estimated 43,000 in Jacksonville remained without power on Oct. 11.

"Our response could have been better and our systems could have been better," said McElroy. 

Board secretary Delores Kesler said she received reports of people traveling back into town after evacuating only to find their power would be out for another week.

"The over promising and under delivering, we know in business we can't do that," said Kesler. "In the future, you should analyze that piece."

Another primary concern, the reported 8.5 million gallons of sewage released into Jacksonville waterways due to power outages at lift stations. 

"We'll look at backup generators at pump sites. In some cases it may make sense, in other cases the flows may be so low that it doesn't warrant the investment," said McElroy.

McElroy was also questioned about trimming trees around sewage stations.  He responded that this will get a higher priority when future storms are forecasted.

Paul Steinbrecher, director of environmental permitting for JEA, confirmed all but two locations of sewage spills have been restored to their pre-storm condition.

Pottsburg Creek, St. Johns River, and the Ortega River that were previously under a health advisory are now cleared and residents can resume recreational activities there.

One unnamed dredge canal of the Ortega River near Ortega Farms Road has not yet been cleared and continues to be tested for contaminants.

No members of the public brought any public comment during the meeting.

Each board member praised JEA's overall efforts with board chairman Tom Petway giving the response an A grade.  He says, however, an A plus should be the goal.

Petway said he expects improvements after these lessons learned to include having more crews in place before a storm, having more generators on-line, and better crisis training for personnel. 

(© 2016 WTLV)


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