WHERE WE WERE
In December, the City of Titusville Water Resources faced one of the most complex sewer system repair made by the City in the last twenty years. A sewer force main had failed in the west pond at Sand Point Park. The City investigated what had happened, determined what corrective actions were needed, marshalled materials and manpower, and then effected the repair, as City crews faced many challenges including working in a dangerous underwater location, finding repair materials, combating time pressures due to flow from contributing lift stations, and working with a concrete slab covering the pipe that was not compliant with construction detail. Through the combined efforts and expertise of City staff, Field Operations crews, and our emergency contractor, the break was repaired in 5 days. An estimated 7.2 million gallons of wastewater was discharged during the event.
Updates on the repair and the steps taken to mitigate adverse effects of the incident have been regularly posted on Titusville’s website. A formal presentation on the force main leak was given at the Special City Council meeting on January 12 at which the conclusion that the cause of the force main failure was the improper installation of the force main in 1998. Water quality sampling results have been regularly posted to the City’s website since January 14.
WHERE WE ARE
Results from the sampling are regularly posted on the City’s website. Monitoring results confirm that the water quality in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) has returned to normal. Water quality in the east stormwater pond at Sand Point Park and the stormwater pond at Space View Park has also returned to normal levels. Sampling will continue in the west stormwater pond at Sand Point until its water quality returns to normal. Daily visual environmental inspections of the stormwater ponds, note sightings of aquatic wildlife at all three ponds
Multiple bubbler aeration systems were initially installed in all three stormwater ponds to accelerate the cleansing process and thus, the recovery of the water quality in the ponds. These aeration systems have been removed from all the ponds except the west stormwater pond at Sand Point Park.
Notification signs informing the public of the presence of bacteria in the water that were initially posted along the shoreline of the Indian River Lagoon, both stormwater ponds at Sand Point Park, and the Space View stormwater pond, have been removed except for the signs at the west Sand Point Park stormwater pond.
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As of January 29, approximately 2,790,400 gallons of contaminated water from the stormwater ponds have been recovered and sent to the City’s Blue Heron Water Reclamation Facility for treatment. Water removal from all three stormwater ponds has ceased since the water quality in the east stormwater pond at Sand Point and Space View’s stormwater pond has returned to normal and the water level at Sand Point’s west stormwater pond is too low to continue pumping.
The earthen dams that were constructed early in the event to contain the contaminated water and minimize the impact to the Indian River Lagoon, remain in place. Field personnel continue to monitor both twice daily.
WHERE WE ARE GOING—REDUCING FUTURE RISKS
The Water Resources Department is committed to reducing and eliminating sewage leaks and discharges from its wastewater system. Current initiatives include smoke testing, sewer manhole rehabilitation, and the installation of force main isolation valves. Unlike water mains, sewer main flows and pressures vary continuously, which limits the technology that can be used for leak detection. Water Resources is exploring alternative methods of generating data related to flows and pressures in the sanitary sewer force main network that would provide alerts on system variances.
The sewage leak at Space View Park could not have been repaired without assistance from and coordination with other departments such as Public Works and the Stormwater Division. Water Resources will continue to cooperate and coordinate with the Stormwater Division to determine if existing stormwater monitoring efforts could be broadened to include bacteria sampling. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) approved the cessation of sampling of the IRL on January 14 when results showed the water quality had returned to background levels.
FDEP has not requested that the City of Titusville dredge any of the stormwater ponds. Neither the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Recreational Water Quality Criteria nor FDEP’s Numeric Nutrient Criteria apply to stormwater ponds. It is probable that through FDEP’s consent order process the City will be allowed to offset any monetary penalties with pollution prevention projects. As these projects would target areas affected by the leak, rehabilitation of and improvements to the stormwater treatment ponds would likely qualify and could include the installation of Beemats, littoral plantings, or other onsite treatment upgrades to improve the water quality in the stormwater ponds and ultimately the IRL.
The Water Resources Department has created an inventory Force Main Stream/Canal Crossings in its wastewater system. These crossings are being assessed as to their potential for failure and need for improvements or upgrades. As needs are identified, construction will be budgeted and undertaken. An ongoing Force Main Crossing Inspection and Maintenance Program will be initiated shortly.
A master plan for the City’s wastewater system is under development. The plan will evaluate the wastewater collection and transmission system and will identify what capital improvements are necessary to improve the reliability of the wastewater infrastructure and, thereby, reduce or eliminate wastewater spills. As protection of the IRL is a vital concern for Titusville, the master plan will prioritize those areas in the vicinity of the lagoon. The replacement of sewer assets will be based upon the degree of risk and the consequences of infrastructure failure. These capital improvements will be included in the upcoming proposed departmental budget.
IMPROVING THE HEALTH OF THE IRL
Titusville partners with numerous agencies and organizations to accomplish a wide variety of projects and initiatives. Titusville Water Resources is currently partnering with both the Save Our Indian River Lagoon (SOIRL) Project Plan and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) on the Osprey Nutrient Removal Upgrade Project. The project is to develop and construct biological, chemical, and physical process upgrades that will reduce the Total Nitrogen (TN) and Total Phosphorus (TP) in the reclaimed water (treated effluent) produced by the plant. Titusville has received $9.3 million dollars from SOIRL for the project and $1.3 million dollars from SJRWMD for the upgrades. The upgrades are designed to reduce the level of TN in the reclaimed water by approximately 26,475 lbs/year. The construction contract for the Osprey Nutrient Removal Upgrade Project will be presented for approval at the February 23 City Council meeting.
Titusville Water Resources is also partnering with SOIRL for septic to sewer conversions. Under the SOIRL Project Plan $934,110 has been allocated for this project. Titusville Water Resources has identified 18 properties with septic systems within 55 yards of the Indian River Lagoon for the conversion. Septic systems located within 55 yards of surface waters can contribute from 11 to 35 pounds of TN per year per septic system depending upon the surrounding soils.
Public education regarding sources of pollution to the IRL plays a vital part in improving the health of the IRL. Through its Water Conservation Program, Titusville Water Resources provides outreach promoting the reduction of outside water use and the elimination of fertilizers and runoff through the increased use of native plants and Florida-Friendly landscaping techniques. Titusville Conservation produced a series of utility billing inserts and educational ads during the 2019/2020 fiscal year that addressed the SOIRL Project Plan, nutrient loading from reclaimed water, excess irrigation, dog waste pickup, and irrigation restrictions as part of the City’s effort to prevent contaminants from entering the IRL.
Titusville Water Resources has kept FDEP informed of its actions in regard to the force main break in the stormwater pond at Sand Point Park since its confirmation. Water Resources has continually informed FDEP of the steps it has taken to minimize any detrimental effects to the area and has followed any and all directives from FDEP. As a result of the force main break, FDEP will issue a consent order to Titusville requiring corrective actions, which may include the inventory of stream/canal crossings, assessment of potential failure points; crossing improvements, a crossing inspection and maintenance program, and an early warning system for releases. The consent order may include additional corrective actions. A monetary penalty will also be assessed. As of this date a consent order has not yet been received.