|In 1911, the City of Fort Pierce held an election in which the citizens approved the issuance of $80,000 in bonds including $15,000 for an electric light plant. The electric plant was put into service shortly thereafter and operated from 5 - 11 p.m. daily, plus a couple of mornings each week.
The original generator was a small unit driven by a steam engine and a boiler which used wood fuel. Electric rates were established in 1912 at 15 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Over the years the Power Plant has grown from a few customers to approximately 25,000 customers. Demand on the system has increased from 75,000 kWh per year to 605,000,000 kWh per year.
The present Power Plant generation capability is 125,000 kW. In addition, the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority, through participation in the Florida Municipal Electric Association, owns a 20,000 kW share of the Stanton Power Plant and a 10,000 kW share of the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant - more than enough capacity to meet the present needs of all customers. The Power Plant equipment ranges in age from 50 years to the latest unit which is a gas turbine purchased in 1988. All units burn natural gas - a clean-burning fossil fuel that has not changed much in price over the last several years.
The Power Plant was financed by a bond approved at an election on DECEMBER 5,1911. The entire Electric Light System including plant, poles, wiring and street lights cost $14,640.
Power Plant employees used to blow a whistle at Noon each day so people would have accurate time. It has been said that a Power Plant employee checked a clock outside a jewelers on Second Street each day to assure the correct time. It was also said that the same jewelry store owner set his clock by the Power Plant whistle!
In 1917, the City's first drinking water supply came from an 800-foot deep artesian well located in an area near the present day Power Plant, supplying about 275,000 gal/day.
The first "plant" to serve the better part of Ft. Pierce was built in 1927 at the present day city compound on Savanna Road. Some of the plant is still standing. Another plant had been started near the present day Power Plant, previous to 1927, but during construction the walls collapsed and a new endeavor began at the Savannas. The Savanna swamp area served as the water supply. During the drought of 1939, the water level in the Savannas declined to a point below the suction of the intake pumps. Fortunately, 6 wells had just been constructed around the Savanna plant and were used for two years prior to water levels returning to normal in the Savannas. A canal was then built to the City compound linking the Virginia Avenue Canal out to Five Mile Creek at Okeechobee Road (near Walmart) to augment the Savanna supply. During dry periods flashboards were installed at Five Mile Creek in order to divert water to the City compound via the canal system.
In 1959, a 1 MG storage tank was built at the present Water Treatment Plant site on S. 25th Street. At night the tank was filled and during the day water was pumped to the City. During the drought of 1962 Five Mile Creek dried up. Shortly thereafter the Belcher Canal was completed and a 60" sluice gate, located at 41st Street, allowed water stored in the Belcher Canal to flow to Five Mile Creek. However, water draining from the un-sewered populated areas south of Belcher Canal resulted in high fecal bacteria counts in the water flowing to Five Mile Creek and eventually to the Savannas. As such it was determined that the future water supply should be from wells drilled to a depth of 100' to 125' beneath land surface.
In 1963 a series of wells were drilled along 25th Street. These wells were also pumped into the existing 25th Street 1 MG storage tank and then this water was pumped to the system. At the same time a new Water Treatment Plant (WTP) was being constructed at the tank site, on 25th Street, and was completed in 1964.
The plant on 25th Street employs Lime Softening (LS) to remove dissolved minerals from the well water. Today the plant is served by 42 shallow aquifer wells and was built to treat up to 20 million gallons per day (MGD), making it the largest water plant in the four county area (St. Lucie, Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee). However, the shallow aquifer is subject to periods of drought and also contamination. It has also been determined, from hydrological studies, that the shallow aquifer cannot supply more than 11 to 12 MGD of water on a continuous basis. With that in mind the FPUA decided that another source of water was needed to adequately supply future needs.
Beneath the shallow aquifer and beginning at a depth of approximately 800 feet is a deeper aquifer. This aquifer is called the Floridan Aquifer and is the same one which supplied the City its' water back in 1917. Separating the two aquifers is a layer of clay between 300-400' thick. A total of nine new wells have been drilled into the top of the Floridan Aquifer to supply drinking water.
The water quality of the Floridan Aquifer is different than the shallow aquifer in that it has a high concentration of chlorides. In order to remove the chlorides a new technology called “Reverse Osmosis” (RO) was needed. During December 2002, construction of a 5.3 MGD RO plant was completed next to the existing LS plant and placed into service. Over the next five years the RO plant was expanded to its’ present capacity of 10.3 MGD. Water from the RO plant is blended with the water from the LS plant. By permit, a total of up to 23.7 MGD of treated water can be pumped from the combined plants to the drinking water distribution system.
The water quality of the Floridan Aquifer is different than the shallow aquifer in that it has a high concentration of chlorides. In order to remove the chlorides a new technology called "Reverse Osmosis" (RO) is needed. Presently, a 5.3 MGD RO plant is being constructed next to the existing LS plant. This plant can be expanded in the future. Water from the RO plant will be blended with the water from the LS plant. By permit, a total of 14.6 MGD can be pumped from the combined plants to the water distribution system.
FPUA has approximately 290 miles of water mains, 2,900 main line control valves and 1,100 fire hydrants.
The Water Reclamation Facility was completed in 1986. It has the capacity to treat 10 million gallons of wastewater each day. The plant discharges its treated effluent into a Deep Injection Well, complying with environmental regulations, so there is no discharge into the Indian River Lagoon.
FPUA has approximately 80 miles of pressure force mains, 178 miles of gravity mains ranging in size from 8" to 36" in diameter, 100 lift stations, and 5,000 manholes.
In 1962, the City of Fort Pierce ventured into the natural gas business and built the North Gate Station on Angle Road for under $12,000. By 1968, the demand had grown so much that the South Gate Station was added, and in 1987, over $40,000 was spent to expand it.
In the early 1990's, after the Florida Clean Air Act was enacted, FPUA began using compressed natural gas (CNG) as vehicle fuel. The FPUA fleet now has 19 vehicles using CNG as one of their fuels, and the local Community Transit Authority has 13 buses and vans that use CNG as their second fuel.
FPUA provides 24-hour emergency call-out service for appliance repair, piping, and installations to its 4,700 customers in Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County.
A state of the art Energy Services Center was completed in 1994. The Center's special features include a compressed natural gas filling station to fuel fleet vehicles that run on natural gas. Electric and Water/Wastewater Operations, as well as Materials Management, are housed at this facility.