Hybrid Sewer Update – April 2014

April 5, 2014

Information from County Staff


Members of your committee met with County Staff on Thursday, April 3rd. Staff members present were Ms. Jaimol Charles, P.E. (our newly assigned Project Manager), Greg Rouse, P.E. (engineering manager), and Jonathan Cole, P.E., President of Giffels-Webster Consulting Engineers.
Significant points discussed were:
  • Funding is in place for Hybrid Gravity Sewer in our N3 neighborhood. Giffels-Webster Engineers, which has the contract for designing the system in our area, is modifying its contract with the county to reflect that the plan has changed from grinder pumps to hybrid gravity. This contract modification will be presented to the County Commission for what should be routine approval.
  • The next step will be a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of the neighborhood. This survey will look for for specific sub-surface conflicts to be considered in the final engineering design. We can expect to see GPR operators as early as June. The survey will take approximately three weeks. If the survey confirms the feasibility of the conceptual design, then the project will be a “go.” There is a remote chance that the survey could turn up impediments that will render the plan unworkable. However, the engineers seem confident that they will be able to build the hybrid gravity system pretty much as they envisioned in the conceptual design.
  • Assuming that the contract modifications pass muster, and the GPR survey finds no unforeseen impediments, the final design should be completed by December 2014. This final plan will be presented to the community at a public meeting.
  • The project will then be put out for bid and construction could begin in early 2015. Construction could take up to a year.


Ground Penetrating Radar

Ground Penetrating Radar

Hybrid Sewer Update – Feb 2014

February 20, 2014

Previous action

As previously reported  by Peter Gentile, on Dec. 11, 2013 the County Commissioners unanimously voted to direct the county staff to begin designing a “hybrid gravity sewer system” for our N3 Area.

Latest update

County staff has informed us that a draft has been submitted by the consultant and is under internal review by staff.  Negotiations of the scope and consultant fees will be forthcoming.

Also, there have been some management changes and Jaimol Charles, P.E. is now the Project Manager for the Area N3 project. The N3 Committee will meet with her, once re-design gets underway, since she will be working with the committee to site the smaller lift stations throughout the community.

As Peter noted, “we are fortunate in Sarasota County to have such dedicated and professional civil servants. We look forward to working with them through the planning and construction phases”.

County Commissioners Vote to “Dump the Pumps”!

December 12, 2013

A letter from our N3 Committee Chairman:

At the regular Sarasota County Commission meeting of Dec. 11, the commissioners unanimously voted to direct the county staff to begin designing a “hybrid gravity sewer system” for our N-3 Area.

This vote means that the grinder pump proposal is dead. You may now feel free to take down your “Dump the Pumps” sign (if you still have one).

Wednesday’s vote was the culmination of more than a year of work by your neighborhood committee to get the county to reconsider its original plan to install grinder pumps at each of our homes. In the end, we are getting a system that is not only superior to the grinder pumps, but may well be better even than the vacuum system that originally seemed like the preferable alternative.

By going back to the drawing board, the county utilities staff and consulting engineers determined that the “hybrid gravity system” would answer many of our complaints about the grinder pumps and be cost-effective in our neighborhood. As we have outlined previously, under this proposal there will be 6 to 10 mini lift stations in manholes in the public right-of-way throughout the neighborhood.

The adoption of this proposal was a case study in citizen involvement and government responsiveness. The committee diligently gathered information and mobilized the neighborhood; the commissioners welcomed us and listened to our concerns; and finally the county staff went the extra mile to come up with a much improved plan.

The committee wishes to thank the county commissioners and the utilities staff for heeding our objections and taking the time to develop an alternative proposal. And you, our neighbors, deserve thanks for following this issue, placing signs in your yards, attending the public meetings at the community center, and most importantly, attending the County Commission meeting in February carrying signs.

The county utilities staff deserves particular praise for subjecting themselves to repeated grillings by the N-3 Committee, never losing their cool, and then coming up with an innovative plan that exceeded our expectations. We are fortunate in Sarasota County to have such dedicated and professional civil servants. We look forward to working with them through the planning and construction phases.

Stay tuned for more information. As the project proceeds, you will continue to receive email from the committee and from the Sarasota N3 Sewers website.

Best regards,

Peter Gentile, Chairman

N3 Neighborhood Committee

BBC meeting Wed Dec 11th

December 8, 2013

At the Oct 15th community meeting County Staff presented  a Hybrid Gravity sewer option to N3 residents.  The proposal was well recieved by the audience and is fully endorsed by your N3 Committee.  The proposed hybrid system has many advantages over grinder pumps and no obvious disadvantages.

Commissioners to consider Hybrid System

This coming Wednesday, December 11th, discussion item number 12 will “consider the selection of Sewer Technology options for… Area N3″ (the Agenda can be viewed at scgov.net>Meetings on Demand>Sarasota County Commission).  This will be the afternoon session which starts at 1:30 p.m. The main focus of the discussion will undoubtedly be Hybrid Gravity, an option not previously presented to or considered by the Commissioners.  While this meeting will not include input from the public, your committee will attend in a show of support of the Hybrid option.  There is, as usual, an “open to the public” opportunity to speak to the Commissioners.

Supporting materials

The following links will take you to a letter from Utilities Dept and the PowerPoint presentation that will be shown to the Commissioners.

Oct 15th Community meeting

October 18, 2013

On Tues Oct 15 Sarasota County Staff hosted a meeting at the South Gate Community Center.  They presented an overview of the Hybrid Gravity Sewer which is now the technology proposed for our N3 neighborhood.  The meeting was well attended and, based on comments from the audience, the proposal was well received.  The next step will be for Staff to present the plan to the Commissioners in December.  Your committee plans to attend the BCC meeting to show support for the Hybrid Sewers.  We will advise when the exact date has been determined.


A number of questions from the meeting involved issues that we’ll have to deal with regardless of the system ultimately selected to replace our septic tanks: multiple septic tanks, cost to connect, when to connect, etc.  Most of these questions are answered on the…

County Websites

There are TWO county websites that contain information on the PCSSRP.  Go to sewers.scgov.net  and look at the left side menu… lots of basic information here.

Now go to scgov.net > RESIDENTS  (top blue bar) > Utilities > Phillippi Creek Septic System Replacement > Documents (right side).  Most of your general questions will be addressed on these two sites.

Note: for more information on the county’s website read the Jan 31, 2013 post

Public Meeting for N3 Neighborhood Sewers

October 1, 2013

meeting notice

meeting locn

Sarasota County is hosting a third public meeting for septic system replacement in Area N-3 of the Phillippi Creek Septic System Replacement Program (PCSSRP). The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a discussion by staff and the County’s consultant followed by time for questions and answers.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss a sewer technology for your neighborhood that was not previously considered. This technology is referred to as a “hybrid” gravity sewer system. It was not allowed per the county Utility Code when the design of Area N3 began. The current Utility Code now allows for the consideration of this type of sewer system. The “hybrid” system is basically a gravity sewer system, but is installed at much shallower depths than a traditional gravity system.

On Sept. 5, the county and their consultant met with the N3 Sewer Committee regarding this technology. The N3 Sewer Committee has informed county staff that they have endorsed this newest technology option. They agreed that it is the most appropriate method for providing central sewer to the N3 community.

The county and their consultant will present information at this public meeting and provide details about this new sewer technology.

If you are unable to attend the meeting or would like to make additional comments, please contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000 or TTY 941-861-1833 and ask about the Phillippi Creek Septic System Replacement Program, Area N3.

(County Meeting Notice)

Area N3 Committee Report • Sept. 11, 2013

September 11, 2013

The Area N3 Committee is happy to inform you that the Sarasota County Utilities Department has “dumped the pumps” and is no longer recommending individual grinder pumps to provide sewer service in our neighborhood.

Somewhat surprisingly, though, the recommended option is not a vacuum system, which had been the main alternative under consideration. Instead, what is being proposed for our neighborhood is an “enhanced gravity system” or “hybrid gravity system.”

On Sept. 5, 2013, five members of the N3 Neighborhood Committee (Peter Gentile, Dave Kaplan, Del Macaulay, Walt Menzel and Peter Houk) met with representatives of the County Utilities Department to hear about this latest proposal. The information that follows is our understanding of the proposal based on that meeting.

What is a hybrid gravity system?

As the name implies, a hybrid gravity sewer system is at heart a traditional gravity system. A gravity system is what most people think of as a “normal” sewer system. Sewage flows downhill from the home through pipes that descend gradually deeper into the ground until they arrive at a lift station. At the lift station, sewage is pumped up to a higher level to continue its flow toward the treatment plant. In a traditional gravity system, lift stations can be 20 feet or more underground and collect wastewater from hundreds of homes.

In a “hybrid gravity system,” there are more (but smaller) lift stations and the pipes are not buried so deeply in the ground (3 to 6 feet, rather than 6 to 20 feet).

For our neighborhood, there will be approximately 6 to 10 “mini lift stations” located underground in concrete chambers serviced through manholes. The manholes will be flush with the ground or street. Near each mini lift station will be an electrical control panel affixed to a chest-high concrete post. The electrical control panels will be the only above-ground component of the system. (Incidentally, these control panels are similar to the control panels that each homeowner would have been required to install to operate the grinder pumps.)

The mini lift stations will be placed inside manholes in the county right-of-way (either under the pavement or in the shoulder of the road). The precise locations of the mini lift stations have not been determined, but the county has identified some potential locations that are minimally intrusive. However, it is possible that at least some of the mini lift stations will be located so that the control panel will be in the right-of-way between two homes (similar to where a utility pole would be sited).

Is the hybrid gravity system good for us?

The proposed hybrid gravity system answers many of the criticisms the Area N3 Committee raised concerning the grinder pump proposal:

• The mini lift stations will be in the public right of way. The grinder pumps would have been on our property, within 30 feet of our homes.

• The county will supply the electrical power to run the mini lift stations. The homeowners would have provided electricity for the grinder pumps.

• In the event of emergency, the county will only have to pump out 6 to 10 mini lift stations, instead of 200 individual grinder pumps. 

• The homeowner will not be required to install electrical equipment. The grinder pumps would have required each homeowner to install an electrical control panel affixed to the house. 

• The mini lift stations will send an electronic signal to alert the Utilities Department in the event of malfunction. The homeowner would need to call the county to report a grinder pump malfunction. 

• In the event of pump failure, the mini lift stations will overflow through the manholes. In the event of grinder pump failure, sewage could back up into the home. 

Even though the N-3 Committee had earlier endorsed a vacuum system (at the time, it appeared to be the only option to the grinder pumps), the hybrid gravity system offers some advantages over the vacuum system:

• No homes will be sacrificed for the hybrid gravity system.  A home would have been condemned and demolished to make way for a vacuum station.

• There will be no “candy canes” in the yards with a hybrid gravity system. There would be a “candy cane” in every yard with a vacuum system.

The committee does have several concerns about the hybrid gravity system:

The visibility of the control panels. As stated above, the County will endeavor to put the mini lift stations (and control panels) in out-of-the-way locations. However, the more lift stations that are needed, the greater the chance that some of them will be more visible. The County has indicated that they may put at least some rudimentary landscaping around the control panels; we imagine the homeowner would be free to improve on that so long as access to the panel is not impaired.

Odor. The County states that odor should not be a problem, partly because each mini lift station will be serving a limited number of homes. (The bigger the lift station, the greater the potential for odor.) However, in the case of malfunction, odor could temporarily be a problem (although this is true of any sewer system).

As we have said before, the county is going to put us on central sewer of one sort or another. Every sewer system technology has some potential drawbacks. The committee had previously endorsed the vacuum system, despite its drawbacks (need for a vacuum station, candy canes in every yard). We believe the advantages of the hybrid gravity system outweigh the potential disadvantages. 

How this came about

At the County Commission meeting of Feb. 13, 2013, where approximately 50 neighbors showed up with “Dump the Pumps” signs, the commissioners requested that the County Utilities staff take a closer look at the grinder pump proposal for our area as well as the future of the entire septic tank replacement program, since our Committee research indicated that many of the figures used to evaluate the alternative systems were out of date.

The staff retained Hazen and Sawyer Engineers, who provided the original conceptual design for the entire septic system replacement plan, to revisit the costs of grinder pumps. At your Committee’s request, the review considered additional costs for larger storage tanks, electrical outlets for generator operation, and even the cost of generators, in order to bring the grinder pump system up to the level of service provided to other County Utility customers. Using those parameters, the engineers found that the grinder pump system was closer in cost to the alternatives than had originally been shown.

While updating the cost figures, the engineering firm also introduced a new service option: the hybrid gravity system.

In the original sewer system master plan from 2000, there was no mention of hybrid gravity systems. County ordinances at the time prohibited mini lift stations. Now, the county seems willing to consider these systems for retrofits like ours.

Committee endorses hybrid gravity system

The Area N3 Committee endorses the hybrid gravity system for our area. We believe the County Utilities staff has gone the extra mile to design a system that the neighborhood will be happy with. The hybrid gravity system answers every concern we raised about the grinder pump system, and answers those concerns perhaps even better than a vacuum system would have.

What is next

In the coming weeks each affected resident in Area N3 will receive notice of a public meeting, most likely to be held at the South Gate Community Center. At this meeting, you will be able to hear for yourself about the hybrid gravity system, ask questions, and make up your own mind.

Assuming that the tone of the meeting is supportive, the County Utilities staff will then make a recommendation to the County Commission to proceed with the hybrid gravity system for Area N3. Then, at long last, construction will begin.

We urge you to attend the public meeting and to learn about the hybrid gravity proposal. We believe that the hybrid gravity system is a good solution for providing sewer service to our neighborhood, which presents many engineering challenges.

Government at work

The committee would like to thank all of the County Commissioners for welcoming us into their offices, listening to our concerns, and finally directing the staff to take a hard look at the grinder pump proposal and see if there wasn’t a better alternative.

We commend the County Utilities staff for working with us to come up with an innovative solution for our neighborhood. We have the utmost confidence in the Utilities Department to deliver us a first-rate sewer system.

We thank all the neighbors who attended the County Commission meeting of Feb. 13, 2013, waving signs and speaking against the grinder pump proposal. In the end, the demonstration of neighborhood support was essential to drive home the committee’s message and to get the Commission to act.

Finally, we thank Mike Scarborough for the countless hours he spent researching grinder pumps and other alternative sewer systems. His blog has been instrumental in providing factual information to our community, the staff and the Commissioners.

Respectfully submitted,

Peter Gentile (chairman and report author)

Mike Scarborough (research director)

Carol Belding (secretary)

Del Macaulay (treasurer)

Dr. Henry Abraham (vice-chairman)

David Kaplan

Walt Menzel

Peter Houk

John Scalzi

N3 Committee Report Sept 2013



No discussion of N3 at Aug 28th BCC meeting

August 26, 2013

It has been confirmed by county staff  that there will be no discussion item regarding area N3 or the future planning efforts for the remainder of the Phillippi Creek Septic System Replacement Program on the August 28th agenda”.  So, again, there appears to be no reason for N3 residents to attend this meeting.

N3 Committee to meet with staff

As Peter Gentile reported earlier, the county staff has recently consulted with an engineering firm to come up with a new proposal for our N3 area, and other similar areas remaining in the PCSSRP. The county staff has requested of the Commission that the discussion items be postponed until this new proposal has been presented to the N3 Committee, then to the larger community.

The committee will meet with the county staff to hear about this latest proposal, and the committee will then communicate with the neighborhood via the N3sewer blog and through the N3 committee email list.


August 24, 2013

A letter from the N3 Committee

Dear South Gate Neighbors,

Earlier this week you received an email regarding the August 28, 2013, meeting of the Sarasota County Commission, at which there was to a be a discussion regarding the provision of sewers to our N3 Area. We had previously been told by county staff that 75 minutes was scheduled as the final agenda item for that meeting.

A review of the Aug 28th Agenda gives no indication of any N3/PCSSRP discussion; apparently it has been removed as an agenda item (go to scgov.net > public information > Meetings on Demand > Sarasota County Commission)Thus, there seems to be no reason for anyone from the neighborhood to attend.

The county staff has recently consulted with an engineering firm to come up with a new proposal for our area, and other similar areas remaining in the septic system replacement plan. The county staff has requested to meet with our N3 Committee to discuss this new plan, and then bring it before the neighborhood as a whole.

The committee will meet with the county staff to hear about this latest proposal, and the committee will then communicate with the neighborhood via the N3sewer blog and through the N3 committee email list.

We will keep you informed.

Thank you,

Peter Gentile, Chairman
N3 Neighborhood Committee

County Commission Meeting Next Week!

August 22, 2013

During the Feb 13, 2013 BCC meeting “the Board considered sewer technology options and associated costs for the PCSSRP Area N, Phase 3 Project”.  The County Administrator was subsequently directed to “provide  [another] report to the Board within 90 to 120 days…”  The official minutes from that meeting also show that Commissioner Robinson requested “that the County Administrator post Staff’s report on the County’s website, as soon as possible upon completion, to allow review by the impacted Residents and the Board…”.  As the next meeting is only six days away, I thought I’d search the County website(s) to see if the report had been posted. Here’s what I found:

website #1: Phillippi Creek Septic System Replacement

Going to scgov.net > Documents > Additional Info: N3 FAQ’s,  the most current post is January 2013, which is a response to questions from the Aug 2012 Public Meeting.  Nothing new here, so let’s go to…

website #2: Sarasota County Sewers

You’ll have to go to sewers.scgov.net for this one, but the most current update I can find for Area N is April 25, 2011.  So, no help here either.

The upcoming meeting agenda has not been posted as of this writing. I will post it here as soon as it is available.  If anyone has more current information, please send it to me at n3sewers@gmail.com.

Also see:

  • Jan 31st blog post “Satasota County Website”
  • scgov.net “Meetings on Demand”


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