For thousands of residents left in the dark by Hurricane Matthew, the loss of electricity was a personal hardship.
For JEA itself, the power failures created a major pollution problem.
Massive sewage spills occurred across its service area after the storm hit — and in some cases it was days before the community knew.
The On Your Side Team has been looking at the scope of the problem, which the utility is still struggling to assess.
At the moment, JEA has reported in excess of 8.5 million gallons of polluted wastewater discharges to Northeast Florida streets and waterways — just since the storm. And that number will likely grow as the agency determines how much sewage was lost.
For affected communities, like those along Big Pottsburg Creek on Jacksonville’s Southside, the spills are a source of concern and frustration.
Bob Wamsley grew up on the creek, fishing, swimming and traipsing through the cypress swamp. It’s a tradition he passed to his granddaughter, who until recently would ride inner tubes here.
“Now,” he says, “I wouldn’t get in this water at all. I don’t even like waking around in it. I want to wash my feet.”
Wamsley’s house was one of a dozen tagged with a warning notice from JEA, advising residents to avoid all contact with the water.
At about 2:20 a.m. Saturday, power failed at the Holiday Road sewage station, less than a mile from Wamsley’s waterfront house. More than a million gallons of raw sewage dumped into the creek. High water levels and Nor’easter winds pushed that same water up onto Wamsley’s land.
Pottsburg is just a fraction of the total. More than 8.5 million gallons of sewage spilled during Matthew as 66 individual sewer systems failed, according to JEA reports to the state. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott ordered an investigation.
“It shouldn’t have happened, we need to understand why it happened,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry told First Coast News. “The governor ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to look into it, and that’s the right thing. I’ve asked the JEA how did it happen? Why did it happen? Why did the generators fail? And then make sure there’s action taken so this doesn’t happen again.”
JEA CEO Paul McElroy told city officials this week that the problem was widespread power outages. Only 280 of the utility’s 1,400 sewage lift stations have backup generators. JEA has another 100 mobile generators, but they couldn’t be deployed at the height of the storm for safety reasons.
Bob Wamsley calls that “poor planning,” and says JEA should – just like him – be required to have backup generators.
“It bothers me they have money to do other things like bail out the pension, but they can’t afford a backup generator so sewage doesn’t end up in the water or in these people’s neighborhoods, you know?” he says.
“I applaud JEA – they worked hard to get power back on,” he adds, “But this sewage thing – that’s a whole different thing. That’s not right."
A complete list of reported JEA storm-related spills is below.
7863 Little Fox Lane, Jacksonville, FL 32223 : 7,500 gallons
5104 118th Street, Jacksonville : 5 million gallons
1412 Memorial Park Road, Jacksonville, FL 32220 : approximately 50 gallons
3000 Coronet Lane Jacksonville, FL 32207 : approximately 30,000 gallons
10797 Ft Caroline, Jacksonville, FL 32225 : approximately 327,000 gallons
1742 Woodmere Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32210 : Unknown
3254 Townsend Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32277 : approximately 337,000 gallons
7958 Green Glade Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32256 : Unknown
5400 La Moya Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32210 : Unverified
1181 Airport Road, Jacksonville, FL 32218 : Unknown, 400 gallons recovered
2337 Segovia Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32217 : Unknown
5959 Ft. Caroline Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32277 : Unknown
3215 Corby St., Jacksonville, FL 32205 : Unknown
3638 Cathedral Oaks Place S., Jacksonville, FL 32217 : Unknown
9465 Beauclerc Cove Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32257 : approximately 327,000 gallons
10182 Bradley Rd., Jacksonville, 32246 : approximately 59,000 gallons
8100 Grampell Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32221: approximately 3,000 gallons
847 Hickory Hill Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32221 : approximately 7,000 gallons
7702 Lennox Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32221 : approximately 106,000 gallons
4449 University Blvd. N., Jacksonville, FL 32227 : unknown
6062 Zinnia Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32209 :Approximately 200 gallons
12931 Mandarin Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32223 : Approximately 900 gallons
4100 Harbor View Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32208 : approximately 12,000 gallons
6630 Broadway Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32254 : 200,000 gallons
7422 Overland Park, Jacksonville, FL 32244 : 46,000 gallons
5490 Shindler Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32222 : Approximately 1,000 gallons
5291 Collins Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32244 : Approximately 32,000 gallons
1082 Nelson St., Jacksonville, FL : Approximately 118,000 gallons of sewage was released.
11035 Creekwood Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32256 : approximately 34,000
6516 Todd Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32216 : approximately 246,000
Oak and Azalea, Jacksonville, FL 32205 : Unknown
Merlin Dr. and Cornelia Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32257: Approximately 1000 gallons
10837 Blue Pacific Ct., Jacksonville, FL 32257 : Approximately 9,000 gallons
1140 Knoll Dr., Jacksonville, FL : approximately 93,000 gallons
1990 Greenwood St., Jacksonville, FL 32205 : approximately 31,000 gallons
1894 Challen Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32205 : approximately 94,000 gallons
1060 Ellis North, Jacksonville, FL 32254 : approximately 387,000 gallons
1896 Talbot Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32205 ; approximately 144,000 gallons
1818 Willow Branch Terrace, Jacksonville, FL 32205 : approximately 141,000 gallons
5233 est 5th St., Jacksonville, FL 32254 : approximately 514,000 gallons
5823 118th St., Jacksonville, FL 32244 : Approximately 196,000 gallons
7039 Alachua Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32210 : approximately 848,000 gallons
5872 Mining Terrace, Jacksonville, FL 32257 : approximately 4,000 gallons
5568 La Moya Ave Apt 18 Jacksonville FL 322105 gallons
11855 Camden Rd Jacksonville FL 32218 : 10,000 gallons
653 Monument Road, Jacksonville FL 32225 : approximately 500 gallons
7113 Linda Drive, Jacksonville FL 32208 : approximately 44,000 gallons
2391 Brest Rd Jacksonville FL 32212 : 62,000 gallons
12750 Meadowsweet Lane Jacksonville FL 32225: Approximately 194,000 gallons
2269 Royal Fern Lane, Jacksonville FL 32223: approximately 54,000 gallons
1820 Woodleigh Dr. W, Jacksonville FL 32211 : 17,000 gallons
1713 Montclair Cove Jacksonville FL 32259 : 40 gallons
10828 Reading Rd, Jacksonville FL 32257 : Unknown
8509 Majestic Oaks Dr. S., Jacksonville FL 32277 : approximately 1,000 gallons
11402 Scott Mill Road, Jacksonville FL 32223 : approximately 4,000 gallons
12443 Sugarberry Way, Jacksonville FL 32226 : unknownn
12658 Misty Mountain Drive E, Jacksonville FL 32225: approximately 500 gallons
7834 Holiday Road South, Jacksonville FL 32216 : 1.1 million gallons
13535 Beach Blvd Jacksonville FL : 182,000 gals ccc
1840 Cedar Bay Road Jacksonville FL 32218 : 5 million gallon/day flow, Unknown releases
ST. JOHNS COUNTY
200 A1A Ponte Vedra Beach 32082 : Unknown
954 Eagle Point Drive, St. Augustine FL 32092 : 21,000 gallons
319 St. Johns Golf Drive, St. Augustine FL 32092 : 57,000 gallons
74 E Teauge Bay Drive, St. Augustine FL 32092 : Approximately 23,500 gallons
92 St Croix Island Drive, St. Augustine FL 32092 : Approximately 23,500 gallons
435 North Ocean Grande Drive, Ponte Vedra Beach FL 32082 : unknown
1985 Glenfield Crossing Court, St. Augustine FL 32092 : Approximately 21,000 gallons
319 St Johns Golf Dr., St. Augustine, FL 32092 : 57,000 gallons