The excessive rainfall in recent weeks - topped off with up to another 4.5 inches on Thursday - have put a major strain on the City of Palm Coast's wastewater (sewer) system.
The flooding has caused sanitary sewer overflows in a number of locations in Palm Coast, mainly from manholes in roadways. The City is advising the public not to work or play in standing water or to wade through it. The swales are very full right now, and some PEP tanks are under water. After heavy rains, standing stormwater is full of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, oils/greases from roads and dog poo. In areas where manholes are (or were) bubbling up on a flooded road, that stormwater might contain domestic wastewater (sewage from flushed toilets), as well.
In addition, the City is asking all residents to limit the amount of water going down the drain over the next few days. Flush toilets less frequently, limit showers, do only essential laundry and keep dish-washing to a minimum. Reducing the amount of water going down the drain will help avoid additional sewer overflows in streets and yards, backups into homes and discharges into water bodies.
Cleanup efforts are continuing in areas where the City experienced sanitary sewer spills. However, areas where overflows occurred cannot be disinfected while there is still standing water. If you see lime, which looks like white flour, on the ground and/or a sign that reads "Possible Contaminated Water," avoid that area. Some of those areas are at or near school bus stops, and the City is working with Flagler Schools so that drop-offs and pickups of schoolchildren can be moved slightly.
Standing water and localized flooding have been a problem since Hurricane Irma hit nearly a month ago. Palm Coast received 10-14 inches of rain with the hurricane, followed by a major rain event with 14 inches of rain last weekend, and another 4.5 inches of rain Thursday. Already this month - in just six days - the Flagler County Emergency Operations Center has recorded 10.32 inches of rain, an amount unmatched for the month of October since 1995.
All of that combined with this week's king high tides, due to the lunar cycle, a week's worth of onshore winds that trap the high tide in the inland water ways such as the saltwater canals and Intracoastal Waterway, and coastal flood and river flood warnings add up to major problems for stormwater drainage.
That excessive stormwater has inundated the drainage system. Many pump stations that keep the wastewater and stormwater in the pipes flowing toward the wastewater plant are over-capacity. The wastewater system is backed up, and the City is working diligently to prevent additional sanitary sewer spills.
The Utility Department is using 15 tanker trucks, operating 24 hours a day, to pump out the wastewater from multiple points along the system and truck that wastewater to the treatment plant. That operation will continue non-stop until the wastewater system recovers.
Customers who experience sewage backup in their homes or a PEP tank alarm going off should call Palm Coast Customer Service at 386-986-2360.