Some stormwater runoff going into Bayou Texar will no longer be left untreated after the city of Pensacola finishes upgrades to its stormwater system.
Crews were working to install a stormwater treatment unit at Bayou Boulevard and Avery Street Friday morning. Several more units are planned to be installed in the area for three sub-basins, which currently discharge untreated stormwater runoff into the bayou.
The treatment units act somewhat like a washing machine, spinning the water and pulling sediments and pollutants to the side, at a rate of up to eight cubic feet per second. Crews use a vacuum truck to clear out the treatment units several times a year.
The treatment unit installed at Avery Street will likely remove two to three tons of pollutants from the water per year, said Derrik Owens, public works director. That includes trash and debris, oils from the roadway and fertilizers.
“The cumulative effect of all these units, stopping all this pollution from going into the bayou, is what’s going to significantly benefit the marine ecosystem,” Owens said. “It’s just like the air. The cleaner the air we breathe, the better off we are.”
The new treatment units are the final stages of a 20-year effort to upgrade all the outflows to the bayou. Owens said the bayou finally started seeing the benefits of the program about five or six years ago with more marine life coming back to Bayou Texar.
“The bang for the buck we get out of these just can’t be beat. What it does for the environment, how it helps the marine ecosystem, recreational use of the bayou, right on down the line. The benefits are so far reaching for what we spend on these units,” Owens said, adding project costs totaled $487,000.
Barbara Albrecht, director of Panhandle Watershed Alliance, said she’s been studying the Carpenter Creek and Bayou Texar watershed. She said some of the biggest concerns are oil from cars or pesticides and fertilizers in lawns that are being picked up by stormwater.
“(The treatment units) do a pretty good job. They filter out the stuff you can see,” Albrecht said. “Soils can pick up things. They can pick up road grease and they pick up pesticides that stick to them. So if you can keep them from entering the water, great.”
When it comes to improving the watershed though, Albrecht said much more needs to be done as far as including permeable surfaces in developments as well as rebuilding the vegetative buffers around waterways to better help stormwater runoff.
“It’s like putting Band-aids on a hemorrhage,” Albrecht said. “Every little bit helps, but we haven’t learned our lesson to back…