By Rachel Brown Hackney, SarasotaNewsLeader.com
On April 10, 2018, wastewater began flowing from the new Siesta Key Master Pump Station to the mainland, following a years-long Sarasota County project.
The conversion of the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant to a pump station ensured that sewage no longer would be handled on the Key, county staff explained.
And, given the redundancies in the equipment included in the new facility, leaders of the county’s Public Utilities Department told Siesta Key Association members that they should not have to worry about any more effluent accidentally ending up in the Grand Canal.
Unfortunately, that did not prove to be the case.
On July 9, 2019, about 36,000 gallons of untreated sewage flowed right into the canal from the master pump station site located on Oakmont Place, adjacent to the Siesta Isles community.
The incident was a result of a failure at the county’s Lockwood Ridge Road booster station, a Florida Department of Environmental Protection report said.
County staff had to manually open a valve at the Lockwood Ridge facility to divert some of the flow of effluent to the north; that eased the pressure in the sewer force main from Siesta Key, the report added. Then the flow increased from the Siesta master pump station, the report noted. That stopped the spill.
About 14,700 gallons of the wastewater was recovered from the canal, the report said. Samples were taken, the report added, and lime was distributed in the immediate vicinity of the spill as a mitigation measure.
That spill was among many, entailing millions of gallons, altogether, that the department documented in a consent order that the Sarasota County Commission approved in August 2019. The order laid out a series of steps the county would need to take, by specific dates, to improve its wastewater treatment facilities to prevent future spills.
Over the past year, the Sarasota County Commission has been approving a wide variety of contracts for projects designed to meet the department’s stipulations.
Among those, the commissioners on Jan. 26 unanimously approved a $1,245,890 contract with TLC Diversified Inc. of Palmetto to construct a new Lockwood Ridge Booster Pump Station (BSP) at 5758 S. Lockwood Ridge Rd. A staff memo in the board packet explained that the station “is a critical component of the wastewater collection system, which boosts flow received from the Siesta Key Master Pump Station, then pumps it to the Central County Water Reclamation Facility for treatment.”
(The Central County complex stands on Palmer Ranch in Sarasota.)
The Lockwood Ridge BPS has been located within an easement on property owned by Gulf Gate Church, the memo added. The new site, the memo notes, is “more suitable.”
The project’s scope of work says that the original pump station was placed into service in September 2018.
In companion action on Jan. 26, the Sarasota County Commission approved a payment of $147,420 to Hazen and Sawyer P.C. to manage the construction project. That firm has offices in Sarasota and Tampa, its website says.
Construction of the new Lockwood Ridge facility is expected to begin this month, the staff memo added, with the project duration anticipated to take about 266 days.