City of Bradenton agrees to wastewater infrastructure upgrades

Clean water settlement reached with the city of Bradenton.
Clean water settlement reached with the city of Bradenton.(WWSB)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 5:44 PM EDT
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BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - A lawsuit settlement has been reached with the city of Bradenton regarding wastewater spilling into the Manatee River.

The city has agreed to make significant improvements to their wastewater infrastructure.

“This has timelines and benchmarks that are going to require the city to ultimately come into compliance,” said Justin Bloom, a board member with Suncoast Waterkeeper. “And over time, hopefully a short amount of time, we’re going to see less sewage spills into our local waterways.”

Bloom says that over the last five years around 160 millions of gallons of partially treated wastewater has ended up in the Manatee River. “It’s something environmentalists say is very harmful to the local waterways and the environment.

“The affects are many, there are pathogens in that water that make people and animals sick,” said Abbey Tyrna, Executive Director of Suncoast Waterkeeper. “There’s also nutrients in the water, nitrogen and phosphorous that can help bloom algal blooms.”

Many people who live and walk near the Manatee River say they are happy with this news.

“In order to keep our environment here beautiful for everyone, and our tourists that come to see our beautiful area as well, we need to have it clean and environmentally safe,” said Seana Riley, a Bradenton resident.

This lawsuit coming on the heels of partially treated wastewater being dumped into river last summer. Here’s what Bradenton Public Works director Jim Mclellan had to say at that time when this was going on.

“When it’s prolonged for extended periods of time at the levels we were seeing, it can be a problem,” said Mclellan. “So we will strive to bring our plant back to normal and we are also investing additional money at the plant to upgrade the system.”

Partially treated wastewater is usually spilled into the Manatee River when the city’s water reclamation facility can’t handle excessive rain. The city of Bradenton says they share the same objective as environmental groups for cleaner waterways. The city says that federal grant money will be used to replace the aging wastewater infrastructure. Environmentalists say this now guarantees upgrades will be done.

“Of all of the cases we’ve brought, Bradenton has been the most responsive,” said Bloom. “And they are really focused on resolution of the issues rather than fighting about it.”

ABC 7 received a statement from the city of Bradenton:

Emphasizing that both groups share the objective for clean waterways, the City of Bradenton has agreed to a settlement in the lawsuit brought by the lawsuit brought by the Suncoast Waterkeeper group late last year.

“We all cherish our environment and our waterways – our rivers and estuaries, our gulf, the bays,” said City Administrator Rob Perry. “We have the beautiful Manatee River right here in front of us, and that’s a treasure.”

The crux of the lawsuit was seasonal discharge of partially treated sewage into the Manatee River, usually when the capacity of wastewater treatment facilities was exceeded. Occurrences of this type were the result of a sudden influx of groundwater entering the aged sewer and wastewater treatment infrastructure during periods of heavy rainfall.

While the City was already in the process of replacing its aged infrastructure and expanding the capacity of the treatment facilities, the lawsuit has expedited the process, and the City is well on its way to upgrading the underground sewer collection system necessary for the future.

The City is fortunate that Federal grant money can be used to fund a large segment of its efforts to replace this infrastructure over the next three years.

“Aging infrastructure needs to be repaired, and our engineers have been dedicated to completing these necessary underground sewer piping system improvements for many years,” Perry said. “We’ve got a plan, we have the resources to implement that plan, and it is my responsibility to make sure we’re solidly positioned for the next 50 years.”

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