After 3-month closure, Escambia ECUA recycling facility damaged by fire on reopening week

By Paul Ploumis

A fire Friday at the Emerald Coast Utility Authority Materials Recovery Facility resulted in a sanitary sewer overflow at the same location.

The blaze started in the plastics bunker at the facility at about 6:15 p.m., a news release said. Smoke and some flame were able to reach another area of the building via discharge chutes. Four sprinklers triggered by the fire assisted the Escambia County Fire Department in quickly containing the blaze, the release said.

The machinery had been off since 1:30 p.m. Friday, so the source of the fire is not likely anything related to equipment, the news release said. The mass of melted plastics in the bunker prevented officials from confirming what materials in the plastics bunker caused the fire. 

A preliminary review showed limited damage to one wall, some lighting fixtures and ceiling tiles in the impacted area.

The sewage overflow was due to the rapid flow of excess water used to extinguish the blaze entering the wastewater collection system. 

The overflow was estimated at 600 gallons and was contained on site, a second news release said. Crews diverted and collected an additional 9,750 gallons, which were taken to an ECUA water reclamation facility for proper treatment and disposal.

"ECUA crews cleaned the overflow area with a biocide agent that abated any contamination concerns, per State protocol," the release said. ECUA notified the Escambia County Health Department and Florida Department of Environmental Protection in accordance with procedure.

ECUA was able to accept recyclables Monday, the day that the city of Pensacola renewed collections for the first time since June 16.

The utility was forced to shut down its recycling center for three months following the failure of a metering belt. Supply chain issues were blamed for delaying the replacement of the crucial piece of equipment.

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