County crews manually stop overflow but take almost 12 hours to resolve issues
At 11 p.m. on Feb. 6, Sarasota County Public Utilities staff learned that fully treated, reclaimed water was flowing from a pond in the Isles of Sarasota community and over a nearby weir, staff reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
Approximately 250,000 gallons had poured into the pond, which stores reclaimed water for use in the Isles of Sarasota, the FDEP report noted.
The county crews found a malfunction in equipment that regulates the water flow, the report explained. They were able to manually close a water line to stop the spill, it added.
Later, the crews also learned that someone associated with the Isles of Sarasota had replaced an electrical panel that had resulted in the temporary disconnection of the county’s monitoring system involving operations related to that pond. The disconnection had prevented staff from learning of the malfunction right away via electronic means, the report indicated.
As the Water Resources Alliance explains, “Older wastewater and water monitoring systems required a lot of staff, time and resources to keep operations running. Now, it is common to see digital networks that monitor each step of the treatment process. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is the standard term for these digital networks and computer systems that gather and analyze real-time data.”
The Alliance adds, “Water and wastewater management companies, utilities departments and other manufacturers use SCADA for the control it allows system operators and the consistent automated data it provides. Key personnel in these sectors can see where real-time problems are occurring in their systems through various data logging points.”
It took the county crews until 10 a.m. on Feb. 7 to complete their work at the scene, the report said. Notifications and water sampling were proceeding per county protocols, the FDEP report pointed out.
The Isles of Sarasota uses reclaimed water from the county’s Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility, which is located at 5550 Lorraine Road in Sarasota, the FDEP report said.
As county staff has pointed out, reclaimed water is sold to residential communities for irrigation.