Sarasota WRF/SSO

Project:  Sarasota WRF/SSO

Client:  Suncoast Waterkeeper; Our Children’s Earth Foundation; Ecological Rights Foundation

Location: Sarasota County, Florida

Services:  Wastewater Treatment/Sewer Systems; Litigation Support; Environmental Advocacy

Sarasota County, Florida (County) operates three Water Reclamation Facilities (WRF) and their associated sanitary sewer collection systems.  Beginning in 2013, the 145 million-gallon (MG) reclaimed water storage pond at the County’s Bee Ridge WRF began to periodically overflow, ultimately impacting nearby Roberts and Dona Bays.

The reclaimed water produced by the Bee Ridge WRF contained high concentrations of nitrogen, primarily in the form of nitrates, an essential contributing factor to algae blooms, including red tide.  By April 2019, the overflows had become a regular occurrence and totaled over a billion gallons.  In addition to the pond overflows, the County regularly experienced sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) from its collection system that polluted local waterways.

Suncoast Waterkeeper (SCWK), Our Children’s Earth Foundation (OCE), and Ecological Rights Foundation (ERF) (collectively, Environmental Advocates) issued the County a Notice of Intent to File Suit in February 2019, to compel the County to remedy its pond overflows and SSOs.  The County desired to find a solution and avoid litigation.  The Environmental Advocates agreed to attempt to reach a settlement agreement prior to initiating litigation and turned to CEA Engineers and Kevin Draganchuk, P.E. for technical expertise during settlement negotiations.

Mr. Draganchuk evaluated options for wastewater treatment upgrades at the Bee Ridge WRF to achieve advanced wastewater treatment (AWT) standards for nitrogen removal, which would result in reclaimed water nitrogen concentrations of less than 3 mg/l.   He analyzed interim reclaimed water storage and disposal options to reduce or eliminate unpermitted pond overflows, until the AWT upgrades could be completed and new aquifer recharge wells could be designed and installed at the Bee Ridge WRF.

Mr. Draganchuk analyzed the causes of the County’s SSOs and identified deficiencies in its collection system operation and maintenance and rehabilitation programs.  He developed the technical requirements for the County to reduce the occurrence of SSOs, including a flow monitoring program, Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Survey (SSES), infrastructure upgrades, and a Capacity, Management, Operations and Maintenance (CMOM) Plan.

Under a tight schedule, Mr. Draganchuk and the Environmental Advocates participated in numerous settlement negotiation meetings with the County in-person and via conference call.  Achieving a settlement required collaboration with County engineers to identify solutions to technical obstacles to achieving AWT at the Bee Ridge WRF, eliminating unpermitted discharges from the storage pond, and developing flow monitoring, SSES, rehabilitation and CMOM program elements and implementation schedules to prevent SSOs.

In September 2019, the Environmental Advocates successfully negotiated a settlement agreement (SA) with Sarasota County.  The SA resulted in the County agreeing to upgrade the Bee Ridge WRF to achieve AWT standards, greatly reducing the nitrogen content of its reclaimed water and potential nitrogen loads to the environment.  The SA requires collection system improvements including a flow monitoring program, SSES of the collection system, development and implementation of a CMOM consistent with United State Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) standards, and rehabilitation of pump stations, force mains, and gravity sewer pipes.

Mr. Draganchuk continues to assist the Environmental Advocates in compliance monitoring to ensure that the County adheres to the requirements of the SA, USEPA standards, and best practices in the wastewater treatment and sanitary sewer industry.