About 130,000 gallons out of 150,000 gallons of raw wastewater recovered after contractor drills into county sewer pipeline near Lake Sarasota community

The previous day, equipment failure leads to spill of 5,000 gallons of fully treated reclaimed water in nearby location

This graphic shows the location of the spill just north of Lake Sarasota. Image courtesy FDEP

On Oct. 21, 150,000 gallons of raw wastewater spilled along Bee Ridge Road after a contractor using a boring machine at the intersection of Bee Ridge and Mauna Loa Boulevard struck an 8-inch sanitary sewer force main, Sarasota County Public Utilities Department staff reported to state officials.

Most of the effluent — 130,000 gallons — was recovered, the report noted.

The raw wastewater ran into a stormwater swale along Bee Ridge Road, the report explained. “Surface waters were not impacted,” the report added, so no water sampling was necessary.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains, “Force mains are pipelines that convey wastewater under pressure from the discharge side of a pump or pneumatic ejector to a discharge point.” Trenchlesspedia adds, “Force mains are used where gravity is not enough to move sewage or stormwater runoff through a sewer line. Pumps or compressors are used to push the sewage through the force main from a lower to a higher elevation or across landscapes where deep excavation is not feasible.”

Notifications of surrounding property owners and the cleanup process were “proceeding per protocol,” according to the report submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) on Oct 22.

The location of the spill is just north of the Lake Sarasota neighborhood. The sewer force main that was affected is part of the county’s Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility service area, the FDEP notice said.

This aerial map shows the intersection of Bee Ridge Road and Mauna Loa Boulevard, with the Lake Sarasota community south of Bee Ridge Road. Image from Google Maps

County staff planned to file a claim to seek reimbursement from the contractor “for costs related to this incident,” the report added. The contractor was engaged in directional drilling, which has become commonplace in the laying of utility pipelines. Directional drilling does not involve long, open trenches, contractors have explained; therefore, it is considered less disruptive to communities.

This graphic explains the directional bore process to run new water and sewer pipelines underground. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Directional drilling has been used in a number of projects in the county in recent years.

The Oct. 21 incident began at 5:30 a.m., the report said. Staff had stopped the leak by 6:45 a.m., the report added.

Just a day earlier — Oct. 20 — another incident involving the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility system was reported to FDEP. In that situation, a county alarm indicated a high water level at the storage pond holding reclaimed water on the Heritage Oaks Golf Course in Sarasota. Approximately 5,000 gallons of fully treated, reclaimed water spilled from that pond, the report said.

This graphic shows the location of the spill on the Heritage Oaks Golf Course. Image courtesy FDEP

County crews were able to manually shut off the flow of water to the pond, the report added. They found that the “automatic fill valve for the pond” had failed to close, the report explained.

That incident occurred at 4800 Chase Oaks Drive, according to the report. The incident began at 6:30 a.m. and ended at 7:30 a.m., the report said.

This is a view of the storage pond on the golf course. Photo courtesy Sarasota County Government via Facebook

Heritage Oaks Golf Course is located southeast of Bent Tree Country Club and north of Clark Road.

Again, notifications and water sampling were proceeding, per protocol, the report noted. The valve used in conjunction with filling the pond would be operated manually until repairs could be completed, the report said.