Price tag for Sarasota water quality improvements: $310 million
County officials delivered sobering statistics about pollutant levels in area waterways while providing an astonishing price tag to upgrade wastewater treatment plants
SARASOTA COUNTY — County officials on Wednesday delivered sobering statistics to the Sarasota County Commission about seagrass death and pollutant levels in area waterways while providing an equally astonishing price tag to upgrade its three wastewater treatment plants — one of which is the subject of a lawsuit for illegally spewing millions of gallons of treated wastewater for years from an overwhelmed holding pond.
While presenting its proposed Water Quality Improvement Program to the commission, county staffers said six area bays, including Sarasota and Lemon bays, have lost a combined 771 acres of seagrass — an important species to help determine the overall health of coastal ecosystems — from 2016 to 2018. Levels of the nutrient nitrogen in Sarasota Bay have steadily crept upward, from just over .2 milligrams per liter in 1998 to around .4 in 2019. While that is still low, it is a noticeable trend, county staffers said, adding that the boost could have an effect on the dying seagrass.
The cost for upgrading three wastewater treatment plants to what is known as “advanced wastewater treatment” facilities to reduce nutrient pollution will be “significant” — between $70 million and $90 million — warned Michael Mylett, the county’s interim public utilities director.