Last large full-time wastewater discharge to Sarasota Bay removed
By Darcy Young, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Public Outreach Manager
One of the original goals in SBEP’s first Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan was the removal of surface wastewater discharges to Sarasota Bay. Wastewater discharges contribute excess nitrogen to estuaries, which can cause algal blooms that reduce the amount of light that seagrasses need to grow while also depleting available oxygen for resident fish populations, the major cause of periodic fish kills. In 1990, wastewater contributed about 50 percent of the total nitrogen to Sarasota Bay. When the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan was adopted in 1995, the community had already made many improvements to wastewater treatment within the watershed. Nitrogen loads had decreased by 25 percent as a result of enacting the Grizzle-Figg Act of 1990, which required all regional wastewater treatment plants with direct surface water discharge to meet Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) standards. However, several major discharges to Sarasota Bay remained, each contributing excess nitrogen and fresh water to the Bay.
Over time, those discharges have been removed as local governments and state agencies invested millions of dollars in modernizing our region’s wastewater treatment systems. In May of this year, Sarasota County decommissioned the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant, the last remaining full-time discharge of wastewater to Sarasota Bay. Wastewater from Siesta Key residences is now pumped to Sarasota County’s large treatment facility on Bee Ridge Road.