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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Nov. 29, 201612:00 PM EST

JEA planning to spend $250M on sewer rehab over next five years

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Expect to see a lot more work being done on the sewer system in the next several years if you’re within JEA’s wastewater service area.

In the next five years, the utility is doubling its annual budget for wastewater collection system repair and replacement compared to 2012-16.

That means an average annual investment of about $50 million and a total investment of nearly $400 million in fiscal years 2012-21.

Part of the increase is due to the utility’s experience with sanitary sewer overflows caused by rain and rising water during Hurricane Matthew. Part is due to operating an aging system with many components near the end of their service life.

“We’re going to identify short-term issues and mitigate before next hurricane season. Long-term, we’ll build toward a more resilient system,” said CEO Paul McElroy at the Nov. 15 board of directors meeting.

A Hurricane Matthew assessment is nearing completion and by April — two months before hurricane season begins June 1 — JEA will have completed its review and will prepare an improved response plan, said Brain Roche, vice president and general manager of water and wastewater systems.

In May, the system will undergo an independent review in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, he said.

Proposed changes include installing backup generators at more sewage pumping stations, because overflows were caused when power was interrupted during Hurricane Matthew; improving communication with customers; and possibly building storm barriers around pump stations that could be affected by groundwater or waterways rising above normal levels due to storm surge.

Nine of the 120 generators at pumping stations failed during the storm. The number of stations equipped with backup generators could double and JEA also may use nearly 100 portable generators as part of the storm response improvement plan.

Roche said of the 67 overflows related to the hurricane, 55 occurred at pump stations. All 1,357 pumping stations will be evaluated in the next six months.

He also said JEA will invest about $10 million each year for the next seven to 10 years for large pipe replacement.

The first project, budgeted at $20 million, is underway in West Jacksonville.

It includes upgrading force main collection pipes and pump stations on a circuit between Timuquana Road at the Ortega River and the Lenox pump station, west of Interstate 295 and south of Interstate 10.

The project, in suburban neighborhoods that were developed in the late 1950s, is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

Other major projects on the 19-page five-year capital plan for water and wastewater are pump station mechanical and electrical repair and replacement at 20 sites and improved electrical reliability throughout the system.

“We’ve got the problem identified. Now we have to come up with the solution,” said board chair Tom Petway. “It’s going to take a lot of money.”

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