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Sewer-line break in Sarasota spills 340,000 gallons, city says

Water testing near Whitaker Bayou shows levels returning to normal after the break Friday.

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Sarasota city officials on Monday blamed corrosion in a 45-year-old wastewater pipe for break on Shade Avenue near Eighth Street on Friday that led to the release of about 340,000 gallons of wastewater into storm drains that lead toward Whitaker Bayou.

In a release from the city on Monday afternoon, Utilities Director Bill Riebe said the pipe had a 70-year service expectation. “Examination of the pipe revealed the pipe ruptured due to corrosion, which is somewhat unusual given the age of the pipe,” he said.

Repairs on the 16-inch pressurized pipe were made by Saturday afternoon, with cleanup completion following a few hours later. City crews responded to the site of the break immediately following the 9:30 p.m. incident.

The city said the entire pipeline is now being evaluated for similar corrosion issues. Depending on what is found, further replacement is possible.

State agencies including the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection were notified. Water testing will continue until results return to normal levels, the city said. Results collected on Sunday indicated lower sewage concentrations, the city said. 

The public is advised to avoid contact with water in Whitaker Bayou until further notice.

“The City Commission is committed to providing reliable wastewater service and to the protection of public health and safety,” City Manager Marlon Brown said in a prepared statement. “The commission proactively approved a long-range plan in 2019 to invest in the renewal and replacement of the city’s aging water and sewer infrastructure. 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.”



Eric Garwood

Eric Garwood is the managing editor of the Longboat Observer and the Sarasota Observer. Since graduating from University of South Florida in 1984, he's been a reporter and editor at newspapers in Florida and North Carolina.