Efforts to protect the environment on Santa Rosa Island continue to progress as the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) dedicated the new “Reclaimed Water Facility” at its Pensacola Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant, (PBWWTP).

p beach

The environmental and cost-saving facility, neatly tucked behind a row of multi-colored tourist retail and souvenir businesses, allows the Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) to irrigate the rights-of-way and medians along Via de Luna Drive, the main road on Pensacola Beach.

Reducing surface water discharges and conserving drinking water have become  critical issues in Florida as the number of residents and visitors increases. A practical and effective method to reduce effluent disposal and conserve drinking water is to substitute highly treated wastewater, or reclaimed water, for potable water when the supply is not intended for human consumption.

ECUA Director of Engineering Bill Johnson says, “The project provides irrigation water at a lower cost, as the SRIA may potentially see a sixty to seventy percent decrease on its irrigation bill, and will eliminate some of the effluent discharge from the PBWWTP into local surface waters.”

The growing demand for alternate water sources and increasingly stringent water quality discharge requirements are the two primary driving forces for using reclaimed water to meet some of society’s water demands.

The PBWWTP offers a double benefit. It provides needed wastewater service to island residents, at the same time helping meet the irrigation water demands of the beach’s increasing population. Steve Holcomb, ECUA’s PE, manager of water reclamation engineering says, “We made a decision in the 1980’s to upgrade the facility.  The quality of reclaimed water generated at the plant exceeds water quality standards dictated by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).”

One technological improvement at the upgraded plant is the use of a multi-compartment chlorine contact chamber, replacing the outdated ultra-violet (UV) system. The chamber features two tanks; the liquid chlorine is introduced into the treated wastewater entering the first chamber, where the flow is analyzed and then passed along into the second chamber.

sodium chamber

The chlorine being used in the system is in the form of a liquid, sodium hypochlorite (essentially a strong bleach), and the de-chlorination is achieved by the addition of sodium bisulfate (a chemical that is also used in some fruit canning processes). All of the reclaimed water is disinfected prior to sending it to the reuse system for irrigation. The excess reclaimed water that is not used for irrigation is then treated to remove the chlorine (de-chlorination) prior to discharge into Santa Rosa Sound.

If the reclaimed water monitoring parameters do not achieve the FDEP standards, whether being discharged to the Sound or to the reuse irrigation system, the flow is then diverted to a Reject Storage Tank where it can then be retreated so it meets the FDEP discharge requirements.

Scott Jernigan, PE, Baskerville-Donovan Inc, added, “The SRIA/PBWWTP disinfection system project was the last step to bringing the first phase of public access reuse to Pensacola Beach. SRIA installed a 12” reclaimed water main in 2004, during a road widening project. Currently, the SRIA is using approximately 65,000 gpd of reclaimed water for irrigation, with the capacity to expand the system as additional users are identified.” To date, the maximum weekly demand has been 75,000 gpd.

Stacey Hayden, PE and ECUA project engineer says, “The long-term advantages to the Authority are significant. The reduction in water usage and avoidance or delay of drilling new wells is viewed favorably by the authorities at the water management district.”

The ECUA has embraced the protection and conservation of the state’s natural resources so they will be available for future generations. The Authority has demonstrated this by meeting one of the state’s water conservation measures: Florida Statute 402.064, which states in part that, “the encouragement and promotion of water conservation, and reuse of reclaimed water, as defined by the Department, are state objectives and are considered to be in the public interest. The Legislature finds that the reuse of reclaimed water is a critical component of meeting the state’s existing and future water supply needs while sustaining natural systems.”

About ECUA: Originally founded as the Escambia County Utilities Authority in 1981, the Authority’s name was officially changed to the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority on June 29, 2004. The ECUA is a local governmental body, existing under the laws of the State of Florida to provide sanitation, water, and wastewater services.

Highlights of the PBWWTP Disinfection System Modification Project:

  • Total project cost (construction and design)-approximately $2.0 million.
  • Total design and construction time-approximately 3 Years.
  • Construction of new chlorine contact chamber for sodium hypochlorite disinfection.
  • Addition of chlorination and de-chlorination (for surface water discharge) storage and injection equipment.
  • Construction of reclaimed water pumps station.
  • Conversion of existing UV basin to reclaimed water storage basin.
  • Eliminates the discharge of approximately 20 million gallons of treated water, per year to the Santa Rosa Sound. The SRIA reclaimed water distribution system is mainly for the irrigation of the median and shoulders of Via de Luna Drive from Avenida 11 east to the limits of the ECUA’s service area near the Portofino Island Resort.