Special City Council Meeting - January 12, 2021

City Council 

Special Meeting

January 12, 2021

 

The City of Titusville City Council met in special session on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, at Titusville City Hall, second floor, Council Chamber, 555 South Washington Avenue, Titusville, Florida 32796. Mayor Diesel called the City Council meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. Those present in the Council chamber included Mayor Daniel Diesel, Vice-Mayor Jo Lynn Nelson, City Council Members Robert Jordan, Joe Robinson, and Sarah Stoeckel, City Manager Scott Larese, City Attorney Richard Broome, and Assistant City Clerk Jolynn Donhoff, who completed the minutes of the meeting. 

 

Mayor Diesel requested a moment of silence, followed by leading those present in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Assistant City Clerk Donhoff read the procedure for public comment and participation. 


The purpose of the meeting was, as followed: 


  1. Sand Point Park Sewer Spill - City Manager Larese reviewed the purpose of the special City Council meeting, as provided on the meeting agenda. 

 

Water Resources Administration Director Sean Stauffer and Utility Field Operations Superintendent Jeffrey Wayner gave a presentation and reviewed an initial report dated January 12, 2021, that reviewed information on a recent sewer spill at Sand Point Park. The information highlighted the following details:

 

  • The event (sewer spill) spanned a 5-day period in December 2020, per staff this was one of the most complex repairs of the City’s wastewater system in the last 20-years
  • The event location at Sand Point Park
  • Challenges (such as the sewer failure/pipe was located under water, no bubbling occurred as initial evidence of a spill, working under the conditions, accurate and precise planning performed ahead of time on how to complete the repair, in order to complete the repairs in 6-hours or less, in order to avoid sewer back-ups from occurring elsewhere, etc.) 
  • Pictures, map, imbedded and brief video in presentation
  • Cause and calculations related to the infrastructure at the site
  • Response:
  1. Timeline (calendar) 
  2. Signage installed notifying the public with information and presence of bacteria in the water, etc. 
  3. Discharge into nearby storm water pond(s)
  4. Minimizing impacts to the Indian River Lagoon 
  5. Checking the dam twice daily to ensure stability during response

 

  1. Three aeration systems installed at each park (Sand Point and Space View Parks)

 

  1. Sampling of four locations and sampling weekly
  2. Monitoring results: 5-day test
  3. Pictures 
  4. Data on wastewater discharged during the event and contaminated water from ponds recovered and hauled to the City’s reclaimed water facilities
  5. The City continued to work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to minimize any detrimental effects to the area

 

  • Prevention and pipeline replacement map (aerial graphic)
  • Risk mitigation strategy steps (tasks) 
  • Questions

 

Council commended and gave a standing ovation to the City staff that worked to solve the issue and make the repairs to the broken sewer pipe. Council also discussed several clarifying questions on the failed sewer infrastructure, including the infrastructure’s construction in 1998 and the associated improvement project, contractor involvement, inspections, and construction specifications (build expectations) that were in contrast with what the City staff discovered about the infrastructure at the sewer spill, being a 14-inch pipe incased in concrete, but with no rebar or structural support in the concrete itself to offset the weight of the concrete over the enclosed pipe. 



  1. Public Comment – 

 

Assistant City Clerk Donhoff advised that the following citizens emailed comments that were forwarded and distributed to the City Council prior to the meeting: Marlys Breckle, Kay St. Onge, William Klein, Jeff Hartzler, and Stan Johnston. Additionally, several citizens attended the meeting, who addressed the Council. 

 

Kay St Onge read from a prepared statement that reviewed her concerns on the event timeline, birds eating from the affected area, concerns for public health, an event that was occurring in the park, questions for why was the park not closed, dredging the ponds, etc. Additionally, she requested the City to analyze the integrity of the City’s entire sewer system. 

 

Jayde Dwyer appreciated staff’s efforts. She and her family were big fans of fishing and water activities. It was upsetting to see sewage in the water, near activities. It was also bad for tourism. 

 

Uni Clark appreciated the information presented by staff. She was interested whether there were warranties related to the 1998 contractor’s work. Ms. Clark added that warranties were negotiable and she disapproved of the idea of a 2-year warranty. She was further interested if the contractor was still in business. 

 

City Manager Larese advised there was more work ahead to answer questions about the event. 

 

Stan Johnston distributed information. He commented on the contact information included on the City’s signs that were posted at Sand Point Park. He also advised that he believed his car had sewage on it. Mr. Johnston felt there were cover-ups occurring and he did not think that containment of the sewer spill was achieved.

 

Elizabeth Baker felt that better communication needed to occur with the public. She was concerned for children that may have played at the park, the public that may have breathed in contaminated particulate in the air and this substance getting into the public’s eyes, having larger warning signs installed at the site of the spill, etc. 

 

Mayor Diesel and staff discussed that staff discovered it at approximately 3:00 a.m. on December 19, 2020, when staff realized the issue was related to sewer. Staff then installed signs at the site on the same morning and dammed-off the west pond. 

 

Rebecca McCullough desired the water sample tests and reading results be more easily accessible or prominently displayed to the public, rather than requesting this information through public records requests.  

 

Water Resources Director Stauffer advised the information Ms. McCullough referenced would be posted on the City’s website.

 

Ms. McCullough was also interested in accountability, to which City Manager Larese advised the City was meeting and communicating with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on these matters. Information would also continue to be placed on the website.

 

A person whose name was not given commended staff. She felt other departments could have been useful to communicate with the public on the sewer leak. She also discussed her work and association with a group working to improve the health of the Indian River Lagoon (tentatively captured as the Volusia Project). Her first criticism was there were no curtains (a particular or specified type of curtain she mentioned) put up to protect the lagoon and fish. She understood that staff that responded to the event were laser focused on fixing the sewer repair. She also felt the City should have an environmental advisory board to provide oversight. 

 

It was noted the City had an active Titusville Environmental Commission (advisory board). 

 

Stel Bailey with Fight for Zero, an environmental advocacy group, reviewed her concerns for any threat to public health and the environment. She felt that better communication could have occurred with the public and the park should have been closed. Breathing in the air could cause the public to suffer negative health effects. Ms. Bailey also asked if the City was facing pending fines from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). She also commented on new or existing legislation on these matters and how the City was going handle to legislative requirements. 

 

Water Resources Director Stauffer advised that the City had not yet entered the enforcement phase. The importance of having a bridge of trust and being transparent with the public was discussed. The Water Resources Department would put data on the City’s website to make it easily accessible. Concerning any new information or developments that occurred after the meeting, this information could be viewed first hand by the public and all stakeholders. 

 

Ms. Bailey also supported having an environmental advisory board. She advised there were many grants available. She also supported home rule governance to keep polluters accountable. 


Council individually discussed their questions and concerns with staff.

 

Member Stoeckel commented on the City’s recourse, whether warranties existed, the status of inspections for the particular sewer infrastructure installed in 1998, leak detection, research on the sewer line, the sewer leak’s challenges, plans to dig up and fix particular specified infrastructure, communication at the onset on social media and the website, etc.

 

Member Stoeckel requested during the City’s next budget cycle, providing information on the history of a force main(s), breaks, and improvements to infrastructure.  

 

Utility Field Operations Superintendent Wayner reviewed information on breaks, line damage, evaluation of aged pipes, the Department continuously planned for pipe replacements, the history of the City’s sewer infrastructure, a 2018 break and the reason for it, new pipe construction, etc.

 

Water Resources Director Stauffer advised the Department was presently going through a master planning process, which may be accelerated and evaluate all pipes near and around the lagoon. The goal was zero spills. He advised that important changes took time, but he would return with a plan.

 

Member Robinson advised that he and the Council were concerned the same as citizens and it was the City’s job to address these matters and for the public to hold the City to task.

 

Member Nelson commented on the sewer force mains and signage. During this brief discussion, she and staff discussed there were other jurisdictions, such as west on Highway 50 toward Orlando that installed part of its sewer infrastructure above the ground versus below the ground. There was also signage indicating what the infrastructure’s purpose. Staff indicated the public did not always approve of the unattractive aesthetics of above ground and working sewer infrastructure and associated signage.

 

Member Jordan desired another standing ovation for the city staff that responded to the recent emergency repair for the sewer spill, once the end of the meeting was near.   

 

Another person, whose name was not given, commented on the importance of making the public aware of any potential threat to public health, when an incident like the sewer spill occurred. She also commented on the importance of learning from what could have been improved during the recent event and postponing events in the area, until these types of matters were solved. 

 

Mayor Diesel indicated for the record that the sewer spill was a horrible thing. He also indicated that leadership was present and this was important. More so, Mayor Diesel heavily commended and praised the City staff that responded to the sewer spill. He also commented on the importance of hindsight and as a situation evolved, information was pertinent.  


With no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 7:16 p.m. 

 

 

Daniel E. Diesel, Mayor

 


ATTEST:

 

Wanda F. Wells, City Clerk