Anew plant, new services and new opportunities for Escambia County. ECUA wears our Game Changer label well.
The elimination of the Main Street Wastewater Treatment (MSWT) plant and the construction of the Central Water Reclamation Facility (CWRF) have opened up new development opportunities across Escambia County.
“People just don’t want to live around a stinky old wastewater treatment plant,” says ECUA Executive Director Steve Sorrell. “They don’t want to develop in such an atmosphere. Now that it’s gone…I think the properties around there are going to be primed for development.”
“It’s only 19 acres, but that 19 acres will impact 200-300 acres for development down the road.”
According to Sorrell, the opening of the CWRF could help dormant areas of the county spring to life with new businesses and homes.
“It’s going to open up the entire central portion of this county for…development. Before the CWRF, the only thing that could be installed was septic tanks. Now… we’re capable of treating water for virtually any type of development in that area.”
Unlike many large, government-funded construction projects, construction of the CWRF was completed on time and under budget.
“It’s something that virtually any other government agency ought to look to in the future,” says Sorrell. “It just worked.”
Sorrell believes their success was due primarily to limited bureaucracy.
“The ECUA board took a leap of faith, and they granted immediate authority to move that project along. They allowed us the authority to make many of the decisions associated with the project, which moved it along in record time. Instead of having to take every single thing to a public meeting and have everything approved and debated and so on, they granted authority to us to make those decisions and report to them after the fact.”
With faster decisions came cost savings.
“It saved a huge amount of money because of the expeditious nature of the construction project. We didn’t have to experience the costs associated with delays, with mobilization and demobilization.”
The construction of the CWRF is far from the only improvement ECUA has made over the last 12 years. Hurricane Ivan proved to be a tough lesson in storm preparedness, and ECUA has responded accordingly.
“We have just built redundant wastewater treatment plants out on Pensacola Beach,” says Sorrell. “If one is damaged, the other can operate, or they can both operate during peak conditions.”
In addition, he says, “We’ve upgraded all our facilities to make them storm-proof. The new CWRF is designed to withstand a Category 5 storm.”
An increased pumping capacity for drinking and sewer water has created the potential for future development in Escambia County.
“Right now, at peak season, we are pumping 52-54 million gallons a day,” says Sorrell. “We…have a permitted capacity of 74 million gallons a day, and we can really pump considerably more than that. We have the capacity for residential, commercial and industrial growth.”
Waste collection services have also improved. Sorrell points to curbside recycling, free bulky waste removal and free hazardous household waste pickup as just a few examples.
Overall, Sorrell believes that ECUA is perhaps the most important Game Changer for Escambia County.
“We have spent hundreds of millions of dollars making improvements. We have positioned this city, and this county, with probably the most opportune development opportunities that they’re ever going to get.”
Emerald Coast Utilities Authority
9255 Sturdevant St.