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Pipe failure causes wastewater spill into Whitaker Bayou

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SARASOTA – A 16-inch diameter pressurized pipe ruptured near Shade Avenue and 8th Street Friday night around 9:30 p.m. releasing approximately 340,000 gallons of wastewater into the City’s storm drainage system, including Whitaker Bayou.

City of Sarasota Utilities Department crews responded immediately to stop the leak, isolate and repair the failed section pipe, and begin cleanup of the affected areas. The pipe was placed back into service early Saturday afternoon and cleanup was complete by late Saturday evening.

“Examination of the pipe revealed the pipe ruptured due to corrosion which is somewhat unusual given the age of the pipe” said Utilities Director Bill Riebe. “The pipe was installed approximately 45 years ago. The expected lifespan of similar pipelines is approximately 70 years. The rupture certainly was unexpected.”

To determine if the corrosion is isolated to the failed section, Utilities Department technicians and engineers are evaluating the entire pipeline. Depending on the results of the evaluation, additional sections or the entire pipeline will be replaced.

Regulatory agencies including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Department of Health were notified promptly about the incident. The public is advised to avoid contact with water in the Whitaker Bayou until further notice. Health advisory notices were placed at the location of the spill by the Department of Health-Sarasota County.

City crews began collecting water samples from the City’s stormwater drainage system Saturday morning. Water in the stormwater system will be monitored until water quality returns to natural background levels. Results of samples collected on Sunday indicate water quality is approaching natural background levels.

“The City Commission is committed to providing reliable wastewater service and to the protection of public health and safety. The Commission proactively approved a long-range plan in 2019 to invest in the renewal and replacement of the of the City’s aging water and sewer infrastructure” said City Manager Marlon Brown. “Whereas this particular pipe rupture was unfortunate and premature, the City’s efforts to update its infrastructure have reduced the number and magnitude of similar events.”

For more information about the Florida Department of Health-Sarasota County health advisory, contact Public Information Officer/Communications Manager G. Steve Huard: 941-861-2852.