BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – A public notice of pollution was released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection this week after nine million gallons of partially-treated wastewater had to be bypassed into the Manatee River. The city said excess amounts of rain overloaded its wastewater treatment plant and left them with no choice. The bypass took place during a ten-hour period beginning Monday night and ending Tuesday morning.
“The water was partially-treated. It goes through three levels of treatment, but the water that went through this week river had been treated twice,” said the city’s communications coordinate Jeannie Roberts.
The bypass came as no surprise to Suncoast Waterkeeper Founder Justin Bloom.
“It is 9 million gallons. That is a lot of partially-treated sewage. I think they do some chlorination to reduce some of the pollutants, but that is a significant impact on the Manatee River. This is what has been happening for the last several summers because their sewage system really needs a lot of attention. That is why we brought a lawsuit last year which we settled quickly with the city because they acknowledge that they need to make some significant investments in their infrastructure and that is what they are doing,” said Bloom.
City officials say the lawsuit helped accelerate improvement projects they already had planned. The city has begun the roughly $20 million process of re-lining the sanitary sewer pipes and manhole pipes city-wide. With the upgrade, the city says there wont be as much ‘seepage’ into the pipes during a heavy rain event, therefore making it less likely that the plant will be overwhelmed.
“The other thing we are doing is, here at the wastewater treatment plant is, we are adding another tank that will expand our capacity considerably. That goes out to bid probably next month and it will probably be done sometime next year,” said Roberts.
It’s estimated the additional tank will increase the plant’s settling capacity by 75%.
Residents who live near the city’s outflow on the Manatee River are eager to see the upgrades produce results for the environment. Some say they’re “cautiously optimistic.”
“I think it is a step in the right direction. It sounds like some of the projects they are talking about to improve the pipes and some of the systems. They seem to be steps in the right direction. I am assuming like most of my neighbors, we are all cautiously optimistic that they are doing the right thing now, but it is still disconcerting when you hear about 9 million gallons being discharged in the river,” said resident Paul Grivas.
The city says the improvements will take time and will show results incrementally.
“We want nothing more than to never have to send anything into the river again. We share the Waterkeeper’s environmental concerns and if we had the money and the ability to do it sooner, we would have done it sooner,” said Roberts.