Demolition of Siesta Key Water Reclamation Facility equipment likely to get underway late in spring 2020
By Rachel Brown Hackney
By October 2020, if all goes according to Sarasota County plans, the structures that functioned as the Siesta Key Water Reclamation Facility 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 in September.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.