Irma delays wastewater plant project

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By Rachel Brown Hackney

                As a result of Hurricane Irma and a lot of rain that fell about two weeks before the storm blew through, the project to replace the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant with a master pump station has been delayed, Siesta Key Association (SKA) members learned during their Oct. 5 meeting.

                “I’ve been trying to make sure the county lives up to its commitment to get the plant shut down by the end of the year,” Robert Luckner, a member of the organization’s Environmental Committee, reported. County staff had foreseen completion of the project in November. “Now it’s in December,” Luckner said, but at least the schedule is not anticipated to run into 2018.

                The pump station work was about 80% complete as of Oct. 5, he continued, and the entire project was about 70% complete.

                The effluent will travel off the island through new pipelines, so it can be treated at county plants on the mainland, staff has explained at prior SKA meetings.

                Staff also told him that the contractor hoped the pipeline connection across Midnight Pass Road to Shadow Lawn Way would be completed by Oct. 13, Luckner noted. About a week after that has been accomplished, he added, the blocked inbound lane of the street will reopen for traffic.

                Noting that Siesta Isles residents won a county grant to make improvements to the median in late 2015, Luckner pointed out that if the construction work damages the median in any way, the contractor is obligated to make all the necessary repairs.

                Staff also told him the construction on Shadow Lawn Way should be completed by the latter third of October, he continued.

                Although the original plan was to use a method called directional boring to install the new sewer force main underground, Luckner explained, because of a problem the contractor encountered in one area, the contractor had to resort to the open trench method.

                After everything has been finished on Shadow Law Way and the system has been pressure-tested, Luckner said, the road will be repaved. Staff told him that should take place before Thanksgiving.

                Additionally, Luckner noted, staff reported that no problems had been conveyed to the county regarding the school bus stop on Midnight Pass Road, which is in the vicinity of the project. However, Luckner asked that if any of the SKA audience members knew of any issues the construction was posing to students at the bus stop, they should alert county staff.

                “We did have one odor complaint,” Luckner continued. Because the smell was similar to that of rotten eggs, he added, he feared that a problem had arisen again with the wastewater treatment plant. (The odor once was a major focus of complaints among residents who live near the plant. After the SKA invited David Cash, manager of the county’s Water/Wastewater Division, to a meeting in April 2016, Cash and his staff worked to alleviate the problem.)

                As it turned out, the odor was a result of the contractor’s having to pump groundwater out of the construction site, Luckner told the SKA audience. Because of all the rain, the groundwater level had risen considerably, he said.

Cash reported back to him the same day Luckner asked about the odor, Luckner noted, and it was a weekend day, at that.

The normal discharge from the wastewater treatment plant into the Grand Canal flows from a pipeline that is below the canal’s surface, Luckner added.

                “I’ll keep after ’em,” he said, in regard to the project’s staying on schedule.

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