Could “The Bay” actually make the bay cleaner?
Bayfront makeover to include a new filtration process for treating runoff from the 53-acre park, as well as downtown Sarasota’s streets.
Too often, a problem doesn’t get addressed until it’s a crisis, when resolving it is most difficult and costly. The red tide of 2018-2019 is a case in point. Though Sarasota County had for years kicked the can down the road on upgrading its water treatment systems and infrastructure, all of a sudden, water quality became an issue of the utmost urgency for politicians and residents alike.
The opportunity to address a problem at the source is all too rare. Which is why a proposed water filtration system that would vastly reduce nutrient content in runoff from the 53-acre waterfront project known as The Bay — as well as from downtown Sarasota’s streets — has already gained enthusiastic support from The Bay Park Conservancy, the nonprofit START (Solutions To Avoid Red Tide) and several other environmentally-minded agencies and organizations.
The “carbon-life” process, developed by Steve Suau of Progressive Water Resources, Inc., a Sarasota hydrology company, would involve installing an underwater “barrier” made up of woodchips and “biochar” (a porous charcoal) around the lagoon inlet in Phase 1 of The Bay project. Through a natural bacterial breakdown process, the system can vastly reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in the water; in a Lakewood Ranch pilot project, the process filtered 73 percent of nitrogen and 87 percent of phosphorous out of “secondary treated” (irrigation) groundwater.
“It’s so elegant in its simplicity,” said Jon Thaxton of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which has granted a start-up $20,000 toward the design of a barrier for The Bay. “It’s taking all the forces Mother Nature has been using for eons and strategically configuring it for maximum efficie