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FLORIDA - Earlier this week, GRU officials reported that roughly 3.5 million gallons of stormwater and wastewater overloaded the city-owned utility’s collection system. In Marion County, the city of Ocala reported eight incidents to DEP, which included 1,000 gallons of spilled sewage, two flooded ponds and two cracked force mains. Approximately 700,000 gallons of sewage poured onto the streets of Gainesville during Hurricane Irma, according to a report filed with state environmental officials. Earlier this week, GRU officials reported that roughly 3.5 million gallons of stormwater and wastewater overloaded the city-owned utility’s collection system. GRU officials estimate about 2.8 million gallons was stormwater and 700,000 gallons was wastewater. GRU officials said Thursday that the utility’s wastewater facilities saw a record influx of wastewater in its system, nearly triple its normal amount. “It was like a storm we haven’t seen for many, many years,” GRU Chief Operating Officer Tom Brown said. In the days leading up to the storm, the city sheltered evacuees from South Florida. Gainesville was relieved of hosting thousands of out-of-town Florida Gator football fans when the university canceled its game. But GRU’s Murphree water treatment facility was still forced to produce about 28 million gallons of water a day. The storm brought an additional 24 billion gallons of rainfall, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection report. Residents, who were asked to conserve water at home but may not have gotten or heeded the message, continued to flush their toilets, shower and wash dishes regularly. The storm also knocked out power at 92 of the city’s 170 lift stations, which are vital for pumping wastewater through the collection system. The recipe created a mass overflow where 47 stormwater drains and manholes backed up, flooding a number of streets of Gainesville and leaving a foul stench in some areas. On Sept. 11, the day Irma passed through the region, GRU notified DEP of the utility’s inundated system. On Sept. 20, the notice was updated and also sent to city commissioners, detailing the issue. GRU water and wastewater officer Tony Cunningham said no press release was issued because it would alarm many residents who weren’t affected by increased levels of fecal matter. However, he said, GRU officials communicated potential safety issues with locals by knocking on doors and putting signs up near impacted areas. “It doesn’t help to put out a general message because people think they’re impacted,” he said. “Whereas, you know you’re impacted if you see a sign or are walking in the area that has a sign.” Cunningham said residents should still be cautious before entering bodies of water. “Regardless of wastewater, anytime a storm like this occurs, you should not go in any standing water body, because all levels are going to have elevated levels of (fecal coliform) from runoff of stormwater,” he said. “The storm was an extreme weather event that exceeded the 100-year storm for the Gainesville area and brought over 12 inches of rain,” the report said. Among the most flooded areas identified in the report were: 2629 NW 10th Ave., which saw 640,500 gallons of stormwater and wastewater overflow; a power line easement by lift station 83, which experienced 643,000 gallons; 1230 S. Main St., which recorded 299,500 gallons; 2257 NW 11th Ave., which saw 281,400 gallons; and 1000 SE 11th Place, which had 221,800 gallons of flooding.

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