Fernandina Beach Municipal Wastewater Plant Incident

City of Fernandina Beach
Press Release
August 14, 2019 – 4:30 p.m.

Early in the morning of August 13, City personnel arrived at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and immediately noticed that conditions in the treatment tanks were having issues with the incoming sewer to the Plant. Immediately, field crews were dispatched to trace the source of the incoming chemicals.

At 9:30 AM, Westrock officials were notified that their facility was the likely source of the inflow and the facility’s domestic wastewater station was shut down. The State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection Warning Point was notified. Additional treatment chemicals were added by Plant personnel in an attempt to bring the Wastewater Treatment Plant process to an operational condition. It was determined that the existing treatment process was not able to recover, and the flow was diverted to an alternative (redundant) treatment process. The primary treatment process has been isolated so that the contents can be appropriately treated over time.

Westrock officials have been working closely with the City of Fernandina Beach staff to deal with this situation. City personnel have inspected our outfall area and no apparent effects to the local flora and fauna are visible. City staff will continue to monitor the situation and provide further information, including action and responses from the Department of Environmental Protection, as it becomes available.

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Medardo Monzon
Medardo Monzon (@guest_55725)
4 years ago

What I find unusual about this press release is that city officials notified West Rock about the release and not the other way around. A well-controlled chemical process is characterized by the ability to detect undesirable releases into water, air an soil.

Faith Ross
Faith Ross(@faith-ross)
4 years ago

The amount of highly acidic chemical that was released into the City’s wastewater system was substantial. It will be interesting to see if the involved affected wastewater pipes will remain viable and if the sewage pumps in the system have suffered damage. Don’t know how much money or how much time it will take to replace the massive amount of biomass that was killed in the City’s treatment plant. I applaud our City employees whose reactions to the thousands of gallons of damaging, highly acidic material saved our river’s water quality. They also stopped the material from completely shutting down the ENTIRE City’s sewage system. THANK YOU! We all need to be grateful for their responsible actions.

Margaret Kirkland
Margaret Kirkland(@kirkland-mrk)
4 years ago

Medardo raises an important question. And there are many questions to be answered here.

I have to ask why the Observer is presenting this as a “Municipal Wastewater Plant Inciden” when it is clearly a Westrock incident.

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack(@tammi-kosack)
4 years ago

The questions continue starting with the origination point of this highly toxic liquid and why it was not handled by an on-site containment system at West Rock rather than being put into our city wastewater system.

Could this be related to one of the items involved in West Rock’s recent construction–without proper city permits– of a heavy black liquor tank replacement? The city planning matrix identifies a defficiency in West Rocks application regarding spill containment and compliance for being in a floodplain. These tanks hold highly acidic and corrosive byproduct of paper mill production.

When the addition of treatment chemicals was unseccessful in neutralizing the spill, did this still toxic wastewater flow into the Amelia River along with our regular treated wastewater? If so, what are the consequences?

Mark Harrrison
Mark Harrrison (@guest_55730)
4 years ago

It would seem that some of you know what kind, what concentration and how much chemical was released by West Rock. Can you provide that info or a source to it? My eyes aren’t as good they used to be, but I don’t see that information in the article. Thanks!