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Residents and businesses in the area of Old Marco, specifically those near the intersection of Palm Street and Bald Eagle Drive, contended with a raw sewage spill this week.

A contractor working for North Marco Utilities may have failed to isolate the small private system from the larger city of Marco Island Utility, which treats the raw sewerage collected by the small independent system.

“We received a call at the utility early in the day by a concerned resident," said Jeff Poteet, general manager of the city's water and sewer department. " We knew it wasn’t our system as we don’t connect with NMU until after the eastside of the Pier 81 complex on Bald Eagle Drive, but we did respond to see what we could do.

“It was erroneously reported that one of our valves malfunctioned," said Poteet. "That just isn’t accurate. The valve that isolates their system from ours was never closed by the contractor. That valve is located on the NMU side of the meter at the Pier 81 lift station which belongs to NMU.”

A North Marco Utility executive issued a statement via email.

“The city staff did assist in getting their sewer meter, adjacent to the Pier 81 lift station, working (which was broken and not operating) and when installed the new meter immediately showed a negative flow, meaning that sewage was flowing from the city north into Old Marco," said North Marco Utility President Craig Woodward. "Two city employees worked to free the stuck value and with their help the valve finally closed which stopped the continual flow. There is an issue as to who owns and is responsible for the valve that failed to close and that is being looked into. NMU appreciated the assistance of the Marco Island Fire Department, Police and City Utility staff.

“NMU customers in the Old Marco area can rest assured that this emergency sewer situation has been resolved,” said Woodward in an email.

North Marco Utilities did report the spill to the appropriate agencies and immediately responded to mitigate any of the impact.  The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is investigating the incident.

Read more about this in Jan. 21 print edition of the Marco Island Sun Times -- or check back here for breaking news.

Q&A

City Manager Roger Hernstadt and Poteet responded by email to questions from the Sun Times Wednesday night.

Q. Could you confirm the actual date and time of the incident. I think it was incorrectly reported in another publication to have happened today. I’m sure that is not the case

A. I was first aware of the spill around 9:50 am yesterday 1/12/16.

Q. Who has the responsibility for the mating of the two systems in the area of Pier 81

A. Anything north of the Pier 81 meter is the responsibility of North Marco Utilities.  They pump directly into a force main that becomes the city’s ownership at the Pier 81 meter.

Q. Is there an automatic backflow device installed at that location and if so, who is responsible for this?

A. There is no backflow device on the city’s side of the meter; however, backflow devices are in each pumping station owned by NMU.  Backflow devices are not typically installed in middle of a forcemain.

Q. Is there a manual shutoff at the connection point between the two utilities?

A. There is an isolation valve on NMU’s side of the meter.

Q. What year did the city begin taking in the North Marco Utility wastewater for treatment?

A. NMU was constructed long before the city’s ownership of the utility. Best guess, early 70s.

Q. Is there a protocol for this type of shutdown of NMU system to notify the city of the work?

A. No.  They should isolate their system prior to any work being performed.

Q. Do we have a better handle on the amount of wastewater discharged?

A. NMU is responsible for their system and this spill event, I would refer this question to NMU.

Q. Is there a requirement for certifying individuals for working on this type of system, rather than just having a plumber do it?

A. Not on collection systems. Drinking water distribution systems require utility personnel to be licensed with the state.

Q. Is there a requirement that the city and NMIU have a hazmat response plan on file with DEP, and if so, does NMU share that with you gentlemen?

A. We do not have a hazmat response plan. The W&S Department has a wastewater spill response plan. I do not know if NMU has a spill plan or not.

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