20-inch line is the only way for sewage to leave the island.
Update: Town officials on Tuesday afternoon reported the break in the 20-inch sewer line leading from the island to a Manatee County treatment plant has been repaired. The town said pressure readings confirm the repair in the line, which traverses Sarasota Bay, were successful. The sewage spill has been reported to Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The town estimates more than 25 million gallons could have spilled, though amount of the discharge is still being quantified. A spokesman for the city of Sarasota said precautionary water testing has been ordered at Lido Beach, City Island, the 10th Street Boat Ramp and Bird Key Park.
Previously: A break on the mainland side of an underwater sewage line from the barrier islands to Manatee County reported to town residents on Monday is prompting the town to encourage customers to limit water usage.
In an alert sent to residents and business owners via the town's emergency notification system, the town said the break in the pipe was on the “land side on the mainland across the [Sarasota] Bay from Longboat Key.”
“This is the only pipe from the island to the mainland that treats all of the sewage on the island,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “As I understand it, it's a complete failure, a complete break in the line, so there's...I'm sure a significant or at least the potential for significant discharge at the break.”
In a news release sent Monday night, the town is encouraging all commercial, resort and residential properties to minimize water usage to help control the liquid waste moving through the pipeline.
“The Town’s emergency contractor is on site working to mitigate the impact of this wastewater force main break, gain access to the discharge site, and perform the necessary emergency repairs,” the release states.
Assistant to the town manager Susan Phillips said the Longboat Key's utilities staff and Manatee County utilities teams are also at the site for repairs.
Harmer said the line is difficult to access because crews have to cut into the road.
“We don't know yet if this is something that can be patched or if we're going to have to rebuild a section of the pipeline,” Harmer said. “It's a 20-inch line under the ground and we have not exposed the pipe yet to determine what kind of repair will be necessary, so we're trying to be safe.”
Phillips wrote in a follow-up news release on Tuesday that repairing the wastewater main will likely take several days.
“This does not impact irrigation usage – it only relates to wastewater flowing through the pipeline,” Phillips wrote. “The town recognizes that during this pandemic, recommended CDC sanitation measures, handwashing, sanitizing surfaces, etc. absolutely prevail – please conserve water where possible beyond those protective measures.”
Phillips also mentioned the importance of letting guests on the island know about efforts to conserve water, especially considering the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend.