About 80,000 gallons of partially treated sewage overflows onto grounds of Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility after mechanical problem

All effluent contained on site, staff reports to FDEP

This map shows the location of the spill. Image courtesy FDEP

On the morning of Feb. 27, approximately 80,000 gallons of partially treated sewage overflowed onto the grounds of Sarasota County’s Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility (WRF), county staff has reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

All of the effluent that overflowed filters in the plant was contained on-site, the report noted. About 20,000 gallons was recovered by vacuum trucks, while the remainder was contained in the stormwater pond on the ground, the report said.

“Approximately 435,000 gallons of combined stormwater and partially treated wastewater [were] being pumped back through the facility for retreatment,” the report pointed out.

The incident began after staff made a switch in the flow of wastewater so a piece of equipment that had failed could be taken offline for repair, the report explained.

That equipment was one of the Bee Ridge WRF’s clarifiers, which is used to separate solids from liquids in wastewater treatment, the FDEP report said. While it was being assessed for service, the wastewater flow at the plant was redirected to the remaining clarifiers, the report continued, so the solids would pass through those units.

However, the report pointed out, the “increase in flow momentarily obstructed the deep-bed filters,” which are used after the clarification process. “Consequently, the filter flow was reduced, resulting in partially treated wastewater overflowing onto the plant grounds,” the report added.

The incident began at 9 a.m. on Feb. 27, the report said. The situation was resolved by 9:40 a.m.

The Bee Ridge WRF is located at 5550 Lorraine Road in Sarasota, near the county’s Rothenbach Park.

This is an aerial view of the Bee Ridge WRF, with construction work underway. Image courtesy Sarasota County Government via Facebook

It is being converted to Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) status, which will enable the facility to remove far more nutrients, such as nitrogen, from the reclaimed water. Nitrogen has been identified as the primary food for the algae that causes red tide, Karenia brevis.