Sewage Pipes Continue to Have Problems on the Suncoast

Sewage Pipes in both Manatee and Sarasota County have burst lately.
Sewage Pipes in both Manatee and Sarasota County have burst lately.
Updated: Feb. 12, 2019 at 7:02 PM EST
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SARASOTA (WWSB) - Several recent sewage spills have been linked to broken and aging pipes. Suncoast officials say they are diligent about inspecting pipelines, so why do the breaks keep happening?

Nearly a million gallons of untreated sewage and wastewater was spilled in the City of Sarasota on December 20th after a pipe burst at the water treatment plant on 12th street. Most of it was contained to the location. but some of it did end up in Sarasota Bay at the 10th street and 12th street outfalls.

Since then, the pipe has been repaired and is running normally. They do know it was hydrogen sulfite gas that ate away at the concrete pipe, causing it to burst.

However, officials are still determining what the next plan is since it’s a pipe that should’ve lasted 75 years, and ruptured very prematurely after just 40 years.

“We’re determining now whether or not we need to replace the entire pipeline,” Bill Riebe, the Utilities Director for the City of Sarasota, said.

The city says it has been very proactive by inspecting all the pipes more frequently to ensure this doesn’t happen again. The city also has a $64 million dollar program in place to replace and update its sewer infrastructure.

“We’re looking at that to see where there’s other potential, similar areas for that type of failure,” Riebe tells us.

However, even with all of this in place, city officials say some things are out of their control.

Riebe explains, “From time to time, these things happen… you don’t want them to happen but they do.”

That’s exactly what most waste water treatment plant facilities will tell you - including one in the City of Bradenton. Also back in December, Bradenton experienced its own burst pipe.

This time, caused by a big clog of rags and wipes.

“There are three or four safety mechanisms in place to get these clogs out before it becomes a burst pipe, but sometimes we can’t get in front of it enough,” Jeannie Roberts, the Communications Director for the City of Bradenton, said.

They also pay very high attention to their sewer lines to make sure the community has clean drinking water.

“We have 64 lift stations in the city, and our public works crew are on a rotating basis every single day cleaning out balls of waste that could potentially create a bigger clog and a burst pipe later on,” Roberts tells ABC7.

Plus, the city’s treatment plan has a system in place to triple check the waste before it goes into the main pipeline where it’ll filter out any extra waste that will not decompose as easily - dumping it into this garbage for solid waste collection.

Plus, it’s not just wipes and paper towels. Some other common households items like fats, oils and greases, eventually harden and can also cause massive blockage in these pipelines.

“They create stoppages in our sewer system. They affect our treatment process to a large extent,” Riebe explains.

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