Two recent county sewage spills linked to equipment problems in Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility system

Incidents reported near Newtown Estates Park and on Bahia Vista Street on Sept. 10

A Public Utilities Department crew works on the site of the sewage spill on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way on Sept. 10. Image courtesy Sarasota County via Facebook

In separate incidents on the same day — Sept. 10 — Sarasota County Public Utilities Department staff had to contend with cleaning up sewage spills involving equipment associated with the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility on Lorraine Road, staff reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

In the first incident, crews responded at 11:30 a.m. to a report about a sewer force main break adjacent to the property located at 2554 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Sarasota. The site is east of Newtown Estates Park.

During their investigation, the report said, workers discovered a crack on the underside of a 12-inch sewer force main. Approximately 7,000 gallons of sewage spilled into the excavation site and into a nearby ditch that leads to a canal, the report added. About 25,000 gallons of sewage mixed with stormwater was recovered with county equipment, the report said.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that a force main is “used to convey wastewater from a lower to a higher elevation, particularly where the elevation of the source is not sufficient for gravity flow and/or the use of gravity conveyance will result in excessive excavation depths and high sewer pipeline costs.”

“The utility crews were able to quickly isolate the force main and perform the repairs,” the report said. Sampling of the water in the canal was scheduled, and clean-up and notifications to surrounding property owners and residents were proceeding “per protocol,” the report noted.

An aerial map shows the location of the spill on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Image from Google Maps

Workers remained on the scene until 4 p.m., the report added.

Then, at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 10, county staff was notified by a caller indicating the potential of a wastewater leak, that report to FDEP pointed out. An air release valve (ARV) on a 24-inch sewer force main at 5510 Bahia Vista St. in Sarasota had malfunctioned, the report said. The ARV is located in an underground manhole, the report noted. (See the related article in this issue regarding ARVs.)

“Approximately 54,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into a nearby stormwater structure that drains into a stormwater pond,” the report said. “Approximately 16,000 gallons of sewage mixed with stormwater was recovered,” the report continued.

This is a map showing the location of the incident on Bahia Vista Street. Image courtesy FDEP

By 10:15 p.m., the report said, the county crew had completed its handling of the incident.

“Sampling of the pond, clean-up and notifications are proceeding per protocol,” the report noted.

This graphic shows the location of the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility at 5550 Lorraine Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On Jan. 14, the County Commission approved a nearly $4-million agreement with a New York firm, Hazen and Sawyer, to assist the Public Utilities Department with a “Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance (CMOM) initiation program,” as a staff memo put it.

At the time, Public Utilities Director Mike Mylett explained that staff had been working for about two years to establish a CMOM program, which — as outlined by the EPA — focuses not only on operations and maintenance but also on expansion and rehabilitation of wastewater systems.