About 100,000 gallons of raw sewage spills in Pinecraft after break in county pipeline

Effluent recovered before reaching surface waters, county staff says

On July 24, approximately 100,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into a Sarasota County stormwater box following the cracking of a 16-inch sewer force main located at the intersection of Hines Avenue and Clarinda Street in the Pinecraft community, just east of the City of Sarasota, county Public Utilities Department staff has reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

The site is south of Bahia Vista Street and west of South Beneva Road.

County crews were able to recover approximately all of the effluent, the report pointed out. The stormwater box into which the sewage flowed leads to a nearby drainage canal, which goes to Phillippi Creek, the report noted. “Raw sewage did not reach surface waters,” it added.

The South Houston Concrete Pipe Company says on its website that a stormwater junction box is a round or square structure made of precast concrete that is installed below ground. The box provides an interconnection for storm sewers and other piping, allowing changes in the direction of flow or making it possible for piping of different sizes to connect. Such a box also allows for sewer access and inspection.

Lime was placed throughout the affected drainage canal, the report to FDEP continued. The National Lime Association explains on its website, “Quicklime and calcium hydroxide (hydrated lime) have been used to treat biological organic wastes for more than 100 years. Treatment of human wastewater sludges (i.e., biosolids) with lime is specifically prescribed” in regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Phillippi Creek is several blocks west of the location of the spill.

County staff was alerted to the incident at 12:15 p.m. on July 24, the report to FDEP noted.

The responding workers “quickly isolated various lift stations and [began] diverting flow away from the affected site,” the report said. A combination of contractors’ equipment and county tankers, pumpers, and vacuum trucks was “utilized to begin hauling operations from multiple locations to reduce the impact of the cracked force main,” the report added.

Precautionary sampling was to be performed because of the size of the spill, the report pointed out. The clean-up process and notifications to surrounding property owners were proceeding according to county protocol, the report said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that a sewer force main is a pipeline that conveys wastewater “under pressure from the discharge side of a pump or pneumatic ejector to a discharge point. Pumps or compressors located in a lift station provide the energy for wastewater conveyance.”

While county crews were diverting sewage away from the affected area during their mobilization efforts, the report continued, sewage briefly flowed out of two manholes at the intersection of Pine Valley Drive and Tanglewood Drive; approximately 200 gallons ended up on the roadway. That area also was treated with lime, the report said.

On the Nextdoor app a resident of the Southgate community posted a photo showing sewage flowing out of the manhole at the intersection of Tanglewood and Pine Valley Drive. The man added that he did not know what happened, but county workers “came out pretty quick to fix it after I called them.”

It took the workers until 10:15 p.m. on July 24 to resolve the issues associated with the Pinecraft spill, the report to FDEP pointed out.

The infrastructure involved in the spill is associated with the county’s Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility, which stands at 5550 Lorraine Road in Sarasota. The Bee Ridge plant is the largest of the county’s wastewater treatment facilities.