663,000-gallon spill of reclaimed water contained in stormwater retention pond, county staff reports

Two pollution incidents occurred this week in service area of a water reclamation facility the county is working to convert to Advanced Wastewater Treatment status

This map, provided by FDEP, shows the location of the 663,000 spill. Image courtesy FDEP

On Feb. 27, about 663,000 gallons of reclaimed water overflowed from Sarasota County’s Hidden Creek Reuse Pond, slightly north of the Founders Club, and into the stormwater system, Sarasota County Public Utilities Department staff reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

The reuse pond is located near Deer Run Drive, which intersects with Fruitville Road, the incident report said.

The reclaimed water was contained in an adjacent stormwater retention pond, the report added. “Due to the nature of the overflow and location of the retention pond, it is not practical to initiate recovery of the reclaimed water,” county staff wrote in the report. “Staff is evaluating the addition of a high-level alarm system to prevent future occurrences. Sampling has been initiated per protocol,” the report added. “Clean up and notifications are proceeding per protocol.”

The Feb. 27 incident began at 11:30 a.m. and ended 5 minutes later, the report said.

The Feb. 27 spill site was reported at 2985 Bethel Lane, which is the address of the Bethel Mennonite Church, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s records. The pond is visible on the northern part of the property. The red balloon on the image marks Deer Run Drive. Image from Google Maps

That spill occurred just one day after Public Utilities staff members notified FDEP that they had responded to “a high wet well alarm at the Fruitville Master Lift Station” on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.

That lift station is just east of Interstate 75 and Nathan Benderson Park, according to the FDEP incident map.

The report for that incident explained that when staff members arrived at the site, they found “floats used to control the pumps had become entangled by debris, which caused them to fail and prevented the lift station pumps from turning on. Staff immediately started the pumps,” the report continued, to stop the sewage from leaking out of the top of the lift station. “The issue was corrected,” and the station had begun operating normally, the report said.

Approximately 4,500 gallons of sewage was spilled, the report continued, but the effluent entered a stormwater retention pond, where it was contained.

“Floats were cleaned, and staff was able to recover approximately 30,000 gallons of raw sewage and surface water combined. Surface waters were impacted, so sampling has been initiated,” the report said. “Clean up and notifications are proceeding per protocol.”

This is the site of the Feb. 26 incident. Image courtesy FDEP

The Feb. 26 spill occurred at 1600 Wendel Kent Road, that report said. It was discovered at 8:15 a.m. and resolved by 8:40 a.m., the report noted.

Both incidents were in the service area of the county’s Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility (WRF), which is located at 5550 Lorraine Road in Sarasota.

Working under an FDEP Consent Order the County Commission approved in August 2019, the Bee Ridge WRF will be converted to an Advanced Wastewater Treatment facility by December 2025. That process will significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen in the reclaimed water, Mike Mylett, director of the Public Utilities Department, has explained. Instead of a nitrogen concentration in a range of 10 to 14 milligrams per liter (mg/l), the reclaimed water will have a concentration of 3 mg/l, county staff has explained.

Nitrogen has been identified as one of the major foods for the red tide algae, Karenia brevis.

The expense of the upgrade of the Bee Ridge facility was estimated at $158 million last August. However, Mylett told the County Commission that staff would have a much more refined figure after the design of that project has been completed.

The Consent Order covered unauthorized discharges from the Bee Ridge WRF and other county facilities between May 19, 2018 and July 24, 2019. Three of the incidents involved multi-week spills of 432,483,000 gallons of treated effluent from a storage pond at the Bee Ridge site, the Consent Order pointed out.