City water, sewer remain operational during hurricane evacuations

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Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 11, 2019

Utilities Director John Mandrick

Despite repeated warnings, there are always Fernandina Beach residents who choose to ignore mandatory evacuation orders, opting to shelter in place.  We at the Fernandina Observer do not condone or endorse such a course of action, while recognizing it is a fact.

If a mandatory evacuation is called, how does that affect the city’s provision of water and sewer services?

According to Public Utilities Director John Mandrick, it is a state mandate that both the city’s water and sewer systems are staffed 365 days a year.  Both the water and the sewer systems are fully automated and can be monitored remotely.  

Unless a boil water alert has been issued, city water from the tap is safe to drink during an evacuation period.  Also, normal use of water and sewer systems during such time is fine.

Mandrick wrote, “Our systems are designed to handle up to 150 mph sustained winds.  I am not aware of any circumstances that would lead to termination of water or sewer service to our service area.  If an area is being flooded or a water main is broken that area may be isolated from the rest of the system so that the whole system is not affected.”

Do people who receive city water service need to stock up on bottled water during hurricanes?

Mandrick replied, “We have an emergency water tap located at 20 N. 11th Street that anyone can bring their own container and receive free potable water during hurricane season.  My personal view of bottled water is that it is a convenience not a necessity.  

“The city has three interconnected water plants with Diesel powered backup generators that have enough fuel to run for 10 days without resupply.  It is recommended that you have one gallon of water each day for each person in a household.  Gallon containers can easily be refilled at our 20 N. 11th Street location.  

“Please remember that our water does have a shelf life, and after a couple of weeks the quality begins to decline.  I would  recommend that if you have gallons of water kept for a hurricane that you refill them prior to the event and empty them after the event.”

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Mandrick emphasized,  “First and foremost any evacuation order should be followed.  Evacuation orders are issued to protect the public.”

Note that the City of Fernandina Beach provides water and sewer service only within the city limits and to those island properties outside the city that have signed agreements indicating a willingness to be annexed into the city if they become contiguous to a city boundary.  

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