APRIL FOOLS — The town of Longboat Key has made a costly mistake for its residents.
The 3,309 backflow-prevention devices that have been installed at the expense of homeowners and condominium owners at the town’s request in the last two years are too small and have caused extremely weak water pressure island-wide.
The town created an ordinance two years ago as a result of a federal mandate calling for the implementation of a control system to detect and manage water cross-connections and prevent the backflow of contaminants into the town’s water system.
The Public Works Department, which is currently performing its annual inspection of the devices at no cost to property owners, discovered the issue during routine maintenance checks in March.
The only way to fix the error, according to the department, is to have the water account users replace the devices with larger ones that stand 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
Public Works Director Juan Florensa said notices were sent out Friday, March 26, urging residents to have the devices replaced by April 30.
Water pressure island-wide will progressively get worse unless the devices are fixed immediately.
If the devices are not replaced, Florensa’s department will be shutting the water off at non-compliant water meters during the month of May to boost water pressure Key-wide. Non-compliant residents will also face fines of up to $500 per day beginning May 1.
A local plumbing company that has already formed a backflow-prevention division last year to keep up with the demand of Longboat Key backflow installations was ecstatic to hear the news.
“This will keep our division going strong for the next year,” said a spokesperson for the company.
Florensa estimates the larger backflow devices will cost $5,000 to install on a single-family-home site and upward of $15,000 for a condominium building, depending on how many devices are needed for each water account user.
Florensa noted, however, that the town, at no expense to residents, would paint the larger devices
“Paradise Pink.” The bright color will allow Florensa’s staff to easily find the devices in yards and prevent people from backing over them with their cars. Other acceptable colors are “Longboat Lavender,” “Beachy Blue” and “Gulf Green.”
Some residents who began receiving the notifications this week were irate.
“I have to spend more money to replace an ugly contraption in my yard with a larger, uglier contraption,” said one Key resident. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
Meanwhile, officials in Manatee and Sarasota counties are watching the backflow-prevention situation closely on Longboat Key.
Said one Manatee County official: “We’re happy to learn from Longboat Key’s mistakes before we implement such a program.”
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