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Heavy rain overwhelms St. Augustine sewers

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Updated: 5/05/2013 12:41 pm
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The City of St. Augustine is reporting its sanitary sewer system has been overwhelmed by heavy rainfall leading to the discharge of raw sewage in several waterways. The city has received nearly nine inches of rain since Thursday.

The areas of most concern include the San Sebastian and Matanzas Rivers, their tributary creeks including Hospital and Oyster Creeks, and Lake Maria Sanchez.

Crews have powdered some sewers with lime to prevent more spillage. George Curry lives just feet away the one of those sewers on Helen Street.

"I don't think anybody likes raw sewage going in the river much less that close to my house," said George Curry, neighbor.

According to the Department of Public Works, the city's sewer system is not designed to handle large amounts of rain water.

"Our sewer system is designed to handle a certain amount, basically with the amount of rain that we've had our system is surcharged and has over flown into the water bodies," said Martha Graham, Director of Public Works.

The city has posted signs in at least eight affected areas.

"We caution folks to not be swimming or fishing into these water bodies probably till Monday," said Graham.

Crews are in the process of collecting samples of the contaminated water ways, officials expect the large amounts of rain will end up diluting much of the raw sewage.

The city cautions that the absence of posted notices should not be taken as an indication that the water is safe.

The Public Works Department will issue a notice as soon as it is determined that the water quality has returned to acceptable standards.

Due to the heavy rain, the city says it may not be able to issue its report until early next week.

Neighbors with questions can call the Public Works Department during normal business hours at 904-825-1040 after business hours call 904-825-1044.

According to Graham, the city spends 300 to 400 thousand dollars a year to prevent rain water from getting in the sewer system but this time she says the storm was almost like a hurricane.

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