- April 25, 2018
Lenny Landau has tried to solve this riddle for the past four years: Why does the amount of wastewater the town pays to treat exceed the amount the town buys?
“It should be the opposite,” Landau said. “A lot of wastewater is lost to washing cars, irrigation and so forth. You should always have to pay more for the water you bring onto the island than the water that leaves the island because some is lost down drains (to wash cars, irrigate lawns, fill pools, etc.).”
Landau will give a water and wastewater presentation to the Longboat Key Town Commission at its 1 p.m. March 23 regular workshop at Town Hall at the request of Vice Mayor Jack Duncan.
Landau declined to provide details or release a copy of his presentation, but he said the presentation would include suggestions on how to proceed.
“If a problem like this is this big, what do we do about it?” Landau said. “Do you address it and is it worth fixing or trying something new? That’s my intent with looking at this data. To start a dialogue.”
Landau and Public Works Director Juan Florensa have talked about the problem for a while now, Florensa said. Florensa said the problem islands like Longboat Key have is saltwater seeping into wastewater pipes, which is then funneled across the bay for treatment.
“Saltwater leaking into the system is almost 50% of our wastewater treated now,” Landau said. “I call it the river beneath us. And taxpayers are paying to treat that river that’s leaking into the system.”
Since 2002, the town has spent $6 million performing sliplining projects in areas of the Key that have the oldest wastewater pipes, which are susceptible to saltwater intrusion, to stop as much saltwater as possible from getting into the pipes.
“It’s worked well in certain areas of the Key like in Country Club Shores, but it hasn’t worked as well in areas like Longbeach Village that have lower elevations,” Florensa said. “It’s anongoing process we wrestle with as a barrier island.”
A mechanical engineer who consults for General Electric, Landau began studying the issue after examining the town’s population trends in 2010, when he was on the former Longboat Key Public Interest Committee (PIC) board of directors. He decided to analyze population trends he thought would signal when people were on the island and when they were away.
He obtained town data on water consumption, Longboat Observer circulation numbers, rainfall, water usage by address and even church attendance.
Landau said the water and wastewater figures “were the most startling observations.”
“I knew there were more people here in February and March than in September, but the water usage data didn’t show it. It was the start of this adventure,” he said.
In February 2012, Landau created a report showing that unoccupied single-family homes are using more water when they are unoccupied, which confirms that water consumption data can’t be used as a population indicator.
The No. 1 cause of lost water is running toilets, according to Landau. In many cases, water is lost to a leak, either through a faucet, shower or sink inside the home or through outside lines.
Landau’s wife, Susan, is also a community advocate and the past president of the Longboat Key Garden Club.
“She gets excited about things like Bayfront Park and improving the island’s amenities,” Landau said. “I’m interested in that stuff too, but I can’t contribute. I get excited about data and numbers. This is my way of trying to give back and help.”