City of Sarasota Utilities Department completes ‘significant’ milestone in effort to replace aging pipelines

3,400 feet of sewer pipeline placed underground over 2-mile distance through directional drilling method

A crew works on the placement of the pipeline through a bore hole, to position the pipeline underground. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The City of Sarasota recently completed what Utilities Department Director Bill Riebe called a “significant” milestone in the effort to replace aging infrastructure, outgoing City Manager Tom Barwin reported in his Dec. 11 newsletter.

A contractor successfully wrapped up “one of the longest directional drill pipe pulls of 30-inch pipe ever undertaken in the state of Florida,” Barwin wrote.

“A total of 3,400 feet” — approximately 0.6 miles — of 30-inch, high-density polyethylene pipe first was staged on top of Osprey Avenue and then pulled approximately 35 to 40 feet underground through a directional bore hole located between Fourth Street and Brother Geenan Way, Barwin explained. “The pull started at 8 a.m. and finished the following day at 5 p.m. — very efficient and impressive!” Barwin added. “This approach not only minimized disruption to the community but saved millions of dollars,” he pointed out.

The directional drilling method is used in lieu of digging a trench wherever feasible, Sarasota County staff members have explained in regard to utilities projects.

The initiative he was describing, Barwin wrote, involved the replacement and extension of a sewer force main from the city’s wastewater treatment plant on 12th Street to the intersection of South Osprey Avenue and Brother Geenan Way — “nearly two miles underground.”

The Environmental Protection Agency explains that force mains “are pipelines that convey 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 in force mains.”

The city Utilities Department “has been laser-focused on replacing aging underground utilities to safeguard drinking water and sanitary sewer service while protecting our precious environment,” Barwin noted in the newsletter. “This is one of the most critical investments a community can make.

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

“Previous City Commissions’ forethought and fiscal commitment to ensure reliable utility service and a clean environment for future generations has enabled the Utilities Department to move forward with a much-needed capital improvement plan to replace aging pipes that are nearing the end of their useful life of 70 years,” Barwin pointed out.

Many of these projects involve complex underground work in high-traffic areas, he continued.

“Infrastructure replacement is a costly but necessary investment to ensure basic community needs” — such as the provision of clean, healthful drinking water — “are met with an environmentally safe and reliable sanitary sewer system,” Barwin wrote. “System improvements cannot be deferred indefinitely,” he added.

An aerial map shows the intersection of South Osprey Avenue and Brother Geenan Way in Sarasota. Image from Google Maps

“The nation is facing a utility crisis as municipalities that postponed repairs for years are now experiencing serious system failures. With the support of our Commission,” he noted, “a pragmatic 10-year capital improvement plan is in place and underway.”