Contractor working on Cattlemen Road project strikes air release valve, releasing about 23,000 gallons of raw sewage onto Paler Boulevard

County staff able to recover about 18,900 gallons

 For the third time since February, employees working for the contractor handling Sarasota County’s Cattlemen Road Phase 2 project has damaged utility equipment, resulting in a spill of raw sewage.

In the latest incident, which occurred at 9:20 a.m. on July 14, approximately 23,000 gallons of effluent flowed onto the roadway at 6000 Palmer Blvd., county Public Utilities Department staff reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). About 18,900 gallons of the raw sewage was recovered by county staff using a vacuum truck, the report said.

The address is that of Detwiler’s Farm Market, The Sarasota News Leaderlearned. The store remains closed, its website says, because of the structural damage it suffered when Hurricane Ian struck Southwest Florida in September 2022.

In regard to this latest sewage spill, an air release valve was struck, the report explained. During the prior incidents — the second was in early May — workers struck sewer force mains.

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.”

The 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. Pumps or compressors located in a lift station provide the energy for wastewater conveyance in force mains.”

During the February incident, approximately 2,500 gallons of raw sewage spilled onto South Packinghouse Road, and about 1,700 gallons was recovered.

In May, approximately 4,800 gallons of raw sewage flowed onto Cattlemen Road, north of Palmer Boulevard; all of the effluent was recovered.

No surface waters were affected as a result of the ARV damage on July 14, the county report noted, so no water sampling was required. Clean-up proceeded according to county protocol, the report added.

Staff completed its work at the site by 10:30 a.m. that morning, the report noted.

As Sarasota County’s Capital Projects Department staff has explained in its One Week Look Ahead reports, Cattlemen Road is being widened to four lanes from 600 feet north of Bahia Vista Street to Packinghouse Road, including the intersection at Palmer Boulevard. The project also includes the reconstruction of South Packinghouse Road from south of Palmer Boulevard to Cattlemen Road. Further, the project involves new traffic signalization, the construction of sidewalks, installation of a water main pipeline, “and sanitary sewer improvements,” county staff has noted.

The One Week Look Ahead report for the period of July 17 through July 23, pointed out that the laying of new asphalt on South Packinghouse Road was scheduled for the night of July 17, “weather permitting.”

After the road has been reopened, the report continued, the contractor expects to “continue with nightly milling and paving operations” at the Palmer Boulevard intersections with Cattlemen and Packinghouse roads. Further, the report said, “The traffic signal and lighting subcontractor will be installing and finishing lighting and signal equipment at [the intersection of Cattlemen and Palmer].”

The project is expected to be complete in August, the report added.