Confusion reigns as customers swamped with utility alerts

The past two weeks, barrier island utility customers have been bombarded with a flurry of alerts about their water and sewer service, from boil water notices to conservation requests, but there was much confusion over who was served by what utility system and what they were being asked to do.

Part of the issue is that beachside Brevard County is served by two different water companies. The one operated by the City of Melbourne provides water for every community south of Pineda Causeway, including unincorporated areas above Indialantic and below Melbourne Beach. Cocoa deals with areas north of Pineda.

Hurricane Irma caused no damage to the Melbourne water distribution system beachside. “On the mainland we had two breaks that resulted from Irma. There was one on Pineapple in Eau Gallie that broke twice due to the bank of the Indian River being washed away. There was another one on Buddy Drive that broke due to a Florida Power & Light pole that was blown over, said Cheryl Mall, public information officer for Melbourne.

The sewer lines, which are separate from the water lines, did not fare so well on the island.

“Beachside sewage goes to a treatment facility near Indian Harbour Beach, and that’s our line and our facility. It’s a 13-mile pipe that runs from Patrick Air Force Base to Indian Harbour Beach,” said Brevard spokesman Don Walker.

Due to heavy flow in the sewer system from Irma, wastewater was discharged to a canal along S. Patrick Drive and Anchor Drive to prevent backup into residential properties.

“We had about 50 lift stations without power after Irma,” Walker said. “But the main problem wasn’t lack of power; it was the high inundation of storm water.”

The inundation made the 9 million gallons a day pipe fill with 10-14 million gallons of stormwater, ground water and sewage which caused manhole overflows resulting in sewage backup in some residences. Walker said since the main force line was full, it prevented smaller force main lines from feeding into it, causing backup concerns.

Two of the lift stations damaged by Irma were on Riverside Park Drive in Satellite Beach and West Coral Way, south of Eau Gallie Boulevard. Lift stations, also known as pump stations, pump wastewater up to a higher elevation when gravity flow won’t do the trick. Back-up generators restored power for a time until the main power system was back online, thus circumventing the damaged lift stations.

While the sewer system has returned to normal operations, the county has advised residents in locations such as Anchor Drive, Windward Way, Inwood Way, Spinnaker Point, Venetian Way and Lansing Island Drive near Patrick Drive in Satellite Beach not to use the canal behind their homes for swimming, fishing or wading until further notice.

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