TITUSVILLE - The city council of Titusville met for a special meeting on Jan. 12 to discuss the ongoing sewage contamination at Sand Point Park and surrounding areas.
Sean Stauffer, Titusville water resources director, explained that the spill was caused by improper installation of the force main in 1998.
Specifications were ignored and a concrete slab was poured over the force main, and the pond built on top of this slab. Over time, erosion caused the weight of the pond and the concrete slab to burst the sewage pipe.
According to the EPA, force mains "are pipelines that convey wastewater under pressure from the discharge side of a pump or pneumatic ejector to a discharge point."
“We've gone through our system, and gone through our maps and found we have no other cases of force mains under ponds. We do have a number of force mains that cross ditches and a number of force mains that go along the banks of ditches," said Mr. Stauffer. "We’re prioritizing those now. The concern is that we had a specification for a ditch crossing, it wasn’t followed, it looks like it caused this problem. So, what we need to do is look at those ditch crossings and we’ll excavate and see if we have this same issue we had at Sand Point Park pond because we know that can cause the pipe to fail.”
Mayor Diesel inquired as to which company installed the force main, but archives could not confirm which company.
“We have gone through the archives and we haven’t been able to find any more details regarding how we ended up with the configuration that we did,” Mr. Stauffer said.
Mayor Diesel insisted that this type of accident should not happen again.
“When this all started I was asking a lot of questions, and the big thing was ‘How’, ‘Why?’ The big thing after that is: is it going to happen again? Can it happen again? As you just discussed there’s a check going on right now and you seem to have a good feel on that,” said Mayor Diesel. “The next most important question is to know that’s not going to happen again. Obviously, things can break…what we can’t have is something break we can’t get to.”
Public comments dealt with the concern of how the sewage was contained. More importantly, attendees and speakers asked for transparency and information.
Methods like aeration to keep oxygen flowing in the water alerted residents that bacteria could have been airborne.
Elizabeth Baker, a Merritt Island resident, has parents that live in Titusville.
"The public needs to be informed," said Ms. Baker. "There are children playing in that park while the water is spraying and aerating the ponds. Great idea. It's part of cleaning it up. That is getting into the air. People are breathing this. It's getting into their eyes."
Jay Dwyer, 11-years old former resident of Titusville thanked the city workers for their efforts, but stressed the importance of Titusville's environmental treasures.
“I appreciate all you guys who’ve been a part of this and fixing the raw sewage in Sand Point Park because my me and my family, my dad and I, we’re really big fans of going around and fishing or just doing any activity near water,” Ms. Dwyer said. “It’s kind of sad seeing raw sewage in this water where there’s kids playing around. Florida is big for tourists and stuff. Say you’re a tourist and you fly over here and come to Sand Point Park and you see raw sewage. That would be bad and concerning with the odor.”
The Department Environmental Protection (DEP) and Titusville have been working together to fix the contaminated water. Fines may occur as a result of the management of the spill.
"During the event, we have been in contact with DEP but we have not gone to the enforcement phase yet," Mr. Stauffer said. "It's certainly our goal to work out any sort of penalty the pollution prevention project. I already have a few things in mind, because clearly penalties aren't going to do anything for the utility or the environment. So, that's certainly going to be my goal. We can take some good out of this, but we won't know any of those details for a months or so."
Updates on the city's website are posted to keep the public informed of the ongoing clean-up. The city continues to work with the DEP and other agencies to ensure the restoration of Sand Point Park's ponds.
Water Resources is also working with the city to identify any other problematic force main installations.
“This is not something we like, or we expect, and I expect it not to ever happen again,” Mayor Diesel said.