Inundation of explanations after raw sewage discharge

County officials continue to explain the problems which led to a nearly 20-million-gallon sewage discharge into the Indian Harbour Beach canals caused by flooding from Hurricane Irma and a subsequent Oct. 1 storm. The unfortunate reality is, with any of the possible solutions such as storage tanks or ponds, even if millions of dollars were invested, the enhanced system likely still would become inundated during Irma-like rains and require the discharges.

Brevard County Utilities officials will make a presentation on the issue and possible alternatives to Brevard County Commissioner on Dec. 5, including a PowerPoint summary prepared for an Oct. 20 presentation to the Save Our Indian River Lagoon Half-Cent Sales Tax Oversight Committee.

The Dec. 5 meeting will be held at 5 p.m. in the Commission Chambers at the Viera Government Center. The public will be allowed to speak and ask questions.

Utilities Manager Brian Sorensen said the twin floods totaling 15 inches of rain and resulting sewage discharges so close to each other were the worst situation the system has faced in his more than 20 years on the job.

The discharges were unavoidable under the circumstances, considering the capacity and configuration of the current system, as well as ongoing problems with stormwater infiltration in older pipes, but improving that system could be a costly and land-intensive endeavor, he said.

Estimates for alternatives in the presentation include: construct open retention basins on 12 acres of land to store 20 million gallons at a cost of $25 million; construct 20 storage tanks (75-foot diameter, 40 feet tall) on the soccer/football fields north of Bella Coola Drive at a cost of $30 million; continue lining hundreds of miles of transmission lines and authorize grants to homeowners to repair or replace old lateral service lines that may be leaking at a cost of $20 million; or construct a 6.0 MGD wastewater treatment plant on the soccer/football fields at a cost of $50 million.

“We try to educate people to give them an idea of what it would take to fix the problems and realistically how much each option costs,’’ Sorensen said.

Beachside sewer service is the most challenging of any provided by the county because the current system is designed for 8 million gallons a day and on a dry day it processes about 6.5 million gallons a day.

With 10 inches of rain during Hurricane Irma and massive amounts during subsequent storms, and that rainwater leaking into sewage pipes, the entire system got inundated, leaving county officials no choice but to discharge about 20 million gallons of sewage into the Indian River Lagoon or face the unacceptable situation having sewage back up into the neighborhoods.

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