About 2,500 gallons of raw sewage spilled at Meadows Community Center after mower apparently strikes air release valve

County crew recovers approximately 2,000 gallons

A red balloon marks the Meadows Community Center, the site of the sewage spill. Image from Google Maps

On April 10, after a mower apparently struck an air release valve (ARV), approximately 2,500 gallons of raw sewage spilled at the site of the Meadows Community Lifestyle & Wellness Center, Sarasota County Public Utilities staff has reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

That facility stands at 2004 Longmeadow in the northern part of the county.

A Public Utilities Department crew was able to use a vacuum truck to recover about 2,000 gallons of the effluent, the report said. “Our crews quickly isolated the main and stopped the spill,” the report pointed out.

Notifications of affected property owners and residents and clean-up were proceeding according to county protocol, the report added. “No surface waters were impacted.”

A call that came in about 2 p.m. on April 10 alerted the Public Utilities staff to the incident, the report continued. The situation had been resolved by 3:30 p.m., the report noted.

As Crane Engineering explains, “Air release valves are installed at the highest points in a pipeline where air naturally collects. Air bubbles enter the valve and displace the liquid inside, lowering the liquid level. When the level drops to where it no longer buoys the float, the float drops. This motion pulls the seat away from the orifice, triggering the valve to open and vent the accumulated air into the atmosphere. As the air is vented, liquid re-enters the valve, once again buoying the float, lifting it until the seat presses against the orifice, closing the valve. This cycle automatically repeats as often as necessary to maintain an air-free system.”

A county compliance enforcement manager with the Public Utilities Department reported the April 10 incident to FDEP, the report said.

This is the FDEP graphic showing the site of the April 10 sewage spill. Image courtesy FDEP

County sewage infrastructure has been affected numerous times in recent years by contractors or members of the public striking air release valves. The most recent events prior to this one occurred on Feb. 20, as The Sarasota News Leader reported. A contractor’s crew struck two air release valves located at the intersection of U.S. 301 and 47th Street in Sarasota, leading to the spill of approximately 4,000 gallons of raw sewage.

In September 2020, then-Public Utilities Director Mike Mylett reported to the County Commission that staff members were working on measures to shield the ARVs considered most vulnerable to incidents.