Longboat, DEP await final tests on sewage spill

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U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is monitoring the response to a raw sewage spill in Sarasota Bay earlier this summer. The congressman tweeted an update Aug. 11. Islander Screenshot

Longboat Key’s consultant continued sampling and testing to determine the impact of a sewage spill in a mangrove forest along Sarasota Bay.

“Forensic evaluations into the cause and extent of the force main leak are ongoing,” the town stated in a news release Aug. 12.

The spill began June 17 and continued until June 30, when crews cleared a path through the mangroves on undeveloped land at Long Bar Pointe to repair Longboat Key’s wastewater pipe.

The pipe reaches underwater from the key to a county sewage treatment plant in Bradenton, but the break was on land in Bradenton.

Early reports from the town estimated 26 million gallons of raw sewage spilled from the pipeline, but the state has reduced the estimate to 17 million gallons, according to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key.

The congressman tweeted Aug. 11, “Just got off the phone with Florida’s secretary of Environmental Protection about his investigation of the sewage leak into Sarasota Bay. Secretary Noah Valenstein estimates the leak at 17 million gallons, not 26 as originally reported.”

Buchanan also tweeted, “No decision yet on whether the state will take action against Longboat Key for a delay in reporting the incident.”

The spill went unchecked for 12 days and Longboat Key was not the first entity to file a report with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The watchdog environmental group Suncoast Waterkeeper filed with the DEP the first pollution notice, which was released June 30.

The town contracted with Environmental Science Associates to study the incident, as well as determine the amount of pollution to reach the bay.

In an update to the town released Aug. 12, ESA associate Dave Tomasko said preliminary findings found human-related pollution at one of six test sample sites. The station was about two miles from the spill site, the farthest out in the bay.

“Still don’t have the second round of analysis back yet,” Tomasko added.

ESA will provide the town with a final report, which the town will provide to the public and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP continues to monitor the review.