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ECUA, DOH Investigating Spill In Santa Rosa Sound

Emerald Coast Utilities Authority

About 100,000 gallons of partially-treated effluent that discharged into Santa Rosa Sound is being considered some of Hurricane Nate’s handiwork.

“We talk about it being ‘the beach plant’ but we actually have two plants located there, side-by-side,” said ECUA spokeswoman Nathalie Bowers. “To serve as redundancy should we have any issues at the plant.”

The release -- from Plant Number-1 at the utility’s Pensacola Beach Water Reclamation Facility -- involved water that had undergone secondary level treatment,

“Plant Number-1 lost generator power because of some contaminated fuel,” Bowers said. ”Our plant produces AWT – Advanced Wastewater Treatment – level effluent, which is pretty much the highest level of treatment you can get.”

Total spill was about 400 thousand gallons, three-fourths of which remained on-site. The area is being treated with a biocide agent, per state protocol.

As for the affected part of Santa Rosa Sound….

Credit Emerald Coast Utilities Authority
ECUA Pensacola Beach Water Reclamation Facility

“We’re working with the Escambia County Health Department; they’re conducting some of their sampling,” said Bowers. “We’re sampling at the plant site and in the sound. Typically they look for fecal coliform, which is an indication of bacterial colonies that might exist.”

The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County also issued a health advisory for Santa Rosa Sound, advising against any water-related activities because bacteria levels could be high.

ECUA staff returned to the facility on early Sunday morning as soon as it was safe to do so. In a short time, they put the plant back on line. The second plant, says Bowers, operated normally the entire time.