Demolition of Siesta Key Water Reclamation Facility equipment likely to get underway late in spring 2020

Siesta Key Association members hear details of plans to clear site around new master pump station

The equipment in the area shaded in pink is to be demolished. The tank shaded in yellow may remain on the site of the Siesta Key Master Pump Station. Image courtesy Sarasota County

By October 2020, if all goes according to Sarasota County plans, the structures that functioned as the Siesta Key Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) at 5200 Oakmont Place will have been demolished.

Since April 2018, a master pump station constructed on the same property has been sending wastewater from Siesta to county facilities on the mainland via a pipeline under the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The water reclamation operation was decommissioned after the pump station proved it was performing smoothly.

Those facets of the past and future of the county complex were just part of a presentation John Saputo IV, construction project manager for the Capital Projects Division of the Sarasota County Public Works Department, made to Siesta Key Association (SKA) members on Sept. 5.

The design work for the demolition of the water reclamation equipment recently reached the 90% mark, Saputo noted. With that initiative expected to be completed by next month — at an expense of $90,230 — staff hopes to begin advertising for demolition bids in December, with a contract awarded in March or April of 2020, Saputo continued.

The demolition tentatively is set to begin in May 2020, he said.

One structure that potentially will remain on the site is a 2-million-gallon tank that has been adapted for use in what Saputo characterized as an “Oh, my God” emergency situation, such as a break in the pipeline under the ICW. “My guess is … [the tank is] going to stay.”

A graphic shows the site of the Siesta Key Master Pump Station and equipment that functioned as a water reclamation facility until April 2018. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The solicitation county staff will advertise will ask companies to submit a separate bid on demolishing that tank, he noted.

Staff wanted to keep the potential expense of that demolition separate from the cost of tearing down the rest of the tanks and equipment, he explained, since the future of the tank is uncertain.

One SKA member asked why staff did not use that tank on July 9, instead of letting 36,000 gallons of raw sewage flow into the Grand Canal.

“The problem is it’s not automatic,” he replied. “We have to manually go out [to the site] and turn some valves.”

In that July situation, he pointed out, “There was a failure in the system.” A booster pump station functions to move the effluent from Siesta to two water reclamation facilities on the mainland, he continued. “It’s kind of a push/pull [operation], if you will.”

A problem with the booster pump made it impossible for the effluent to flow fast enough to the Central County and Bee Ridge water reclamation facilities, Saputo added, so the sewage overflowed into a stormwater ditch next to the master pump station and then ran into the Grand Canal.

As for what to expect during the demolition: “It’s going to be noisy,” Saputo said.

John Saputo IV listens to a question at the SKA meeting on Sept. 5. Rachel Hackney photo

Another public meeting will be scheduled closer to the start of the project, he noted; invitations will be sent to people who own property within a half-mile radius of 5200 Oakmont Place.

(The county property is just north of Siesta Isles, with the Winding Way community to the east.)

The contract will cover four months, Saputo said. However, the “intense demolition” activities, which will generate the greatest amount of noise, should take only about two-and-a-half months, he continued.

Two primary reasons lay behind staff’s efforts to schedule a May starting date, Saputo explained. First, fewer people are on the Key after the height of tourist season, he said. Second, because of less traffic, the contractor’s trucks “might be able to get from the plant to U.S. 41 in 30 minutes or so,” instead of having to spend “an hour-and-a-half” on the road.

That remark prompted laughter from audience members.

More facets of the plans

When SKA Director Robert Luckner asked if the trucks would be exiting the island to the north, Saputo said that is staff’s expectation.

Manatee County has concrete and scrap metal recycling facilities, Saputo noted, so it would make more sense for the trucks with the demolition debris to leave Siesta by the north bridge.

Saputo also pointed out that this will be the county’s seventh demolition of an old wastewater treatment plant. He showed the SKA members slides taken when a similar project was underway at the Gulf Gate facility in 2010-11. In one slide, he pointed to the heavy equipment on tracks “with major hydraulic jackhammers at the end of them. They eat concrete like nothing.”
The tanks at the Siesta site, he said, have walls that are approximately 6 to 8 inches thick, and they likely stand on slabs that stand 18 to 20 inches in height. “So it’ll take a while” to remove them, Saputo added.

Luckner then asked whether staff had considered asking the contractor to wait until after the school year ends before beginning the work.

A school bus stops on Midnight Pass Road, near the Siesta Isles entrance, Luckner noted. Staff did work around the school year schedule when it was pursuing the pipeline project, Luckner added.

A slide shows the demolition as it was underway at the site of the Gulf Gate Water Reclamation Facility in 2010-11. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Even if the contract is awarded for a May start, Saputo explained, paperwork and other activities necessary before the actual work gets underway likely would not be completed until after the last day of the school year. Saputo added that, based on how the Gulf Gate plant’s demolition went, he would expect the contractor handling the Siesta project to need only 35 to 40 days “for the hard demo.”

Saputo also noted that, because the work will take place next to residential areas, staff likely will ask the contractor to start work no earlier than 8 a.m. each day. General conditions in a contract, he said, call for 10-hour workdays beginning at 7 a.m. However, he added, even with a 7 a.m. start, crews will show up at 6:30 a.m.

In response to a question about what will become of the property after the demolition, Dave Cash, assistant director of the county’s Public Utilities Department, replied, “First it will be grass. We plan to sod that [area].”

Additionally, Cash said, “We plan to retain ownership of it. There are no plans to sell it for development or anything along those lines.”

In the future, Cash continued, the potential exists for public use of the area. Siesta residents have talked of their interest in creating a kayak launch at the Grand Canal, for example, he said, and a dog park.

This is the Gulf Gate Water Reclamation Facility property after the demolition was completed and new sod was laid. Image courtesy Sarasota County

When SKA President Catherine Luckner asked whether the property would be open to the public after the sod has been laid there, Cash told her, “It will still be controlled access,” with a locked gate at the driveway.

“Well, it’s going to look a lot better, I think,” she said. “There’s some grand old trees [on the property] … and some kind of yellow hibiscus that I haven’t ever seen anyplace else.”

She noted that she and her husband, Robert, had toured the site with staff in conjunction with the plans to construct the master pump station.