JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A leak in one of JEA's pipelines has forced the utility company to divert the warm treated water into the St. Johns River, creating warmer condition for manatees.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife the concern is the warm water outfall will cause the mammals to linger, putting them at risk for cold snaps.
Now there's a new push to keep the marine animals safe this winter.
Dr. Quinton White, biology and marine science professor at Jacksonville University, says the marine mammals should migrate further south in the winter months.
"One there's nothing to feed on while they're [here] and it also puts them in harms way for boat traffic," said White.
According to Paul Steinbrecher, the director of environmental permitting for JEA, the leak is located in a pipeline that connects their district two sewer plant with their northside generating station.
Steinbrecher said last year they were able to avoid river outfalls because the pipeline was functioning properly. He said during that time there were only two manatee sightings.
But in 2011, before the pipeline was installed, there were 108 sightings.
"Unfortunately a leak developed in that pipeline this spring and summer and we had to take it out of service," said Steinbrecher.
White said if the docile creatures stay in our area they'll be at risk for cold snaps.
"When we get these dramatic drops in water temperatures the animals are trapped here," said White.
If the water reaches below 68 degrees the mammals could die.
JEA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife are monitoring the manatees every day to ma,ke sure they’re safe.
"If anything arises with the animals' health we immediately notify U.S Fish and Wildlife," said Steinbrecher.
Work to fix the leaky pipeline has already started. JEA said it'll take 18 months to complete. Meanwhile, they've asked Sea World to help with any rescues this winter.
Boaters are urged to slow down and watch out for manatees in the area of JEA's district two sewer plant, which is located by the Marathon terminal.