Posts Tagged ‘sewers’

N3 Sewers: Project Update 12.7.2017

December 7, 2017
The construction of our sewer system appears to be progressing smoothly. Tanglewood Dr. north of Fair Oaks is essentially complete and Rose St and Bougainvillea are almost finished, as is North Seclusion Dr.  There is some construction to be done on the south side of Webber St that is included in Phase 2. The plans show Homassassa Rd. to be Phase 3 and work there will begin upon completion of Phase 2.

What’s That Pipe in My Yard?

Some residents have asked “what is that green pipe sticking up in my yard?” Well, that is the connection point where the homeowner’s sewer line hooks up to the utility sewer. The finished installation will be cut off at grade level. Here are some photos:

This is what we’re looking at now…


This is a typical clean-out at the connection to the county sewer line.

Anybody Know a Good Plumber?

Although our actual hook-ups are months away, this is probably a good time to start talking to plumbers.  I have contacted several and here (in alphabetical order) are those that have indicated an interest in working in our neighborhood:

One advantage in making early contact with a plumber is to get their advice on the placement of the clean out at your property line.  The contractor (Spectrum Underground) has indicated that they will locate the connection pipe wherever you want it, but once it’s installed it can’t be relocated.  Determining the best location now could save you money down the road!  If you know of other plumbers that are interested, have them contact me and I’ll add their names to the list.

Note: When you speak with the plumbers be sure to tell them OUR SEWERS ARE NOT A VACUUM SYSTEM!

List of Certified Plumbers from DBPR

 A listing of state certified plumbers is available at click on “VERIFY A LICENSE”, then “Search by City or County”>Category “Construction Industry”, Type “Certified Plumbing Contractor”>County “Sarasota”> Search.

For Our Do-It-Yourself Neighbors

In a future article I’ll have some tips and guidelines for those ambitious souls that may want to do their own work.

Contact Information

  • construction questions – John Saputo (941) 650-0022
  • Pluris Southgate customer service – (888) 758-7471
  • utility connections – (941) 861-6767   [option 1]
  • financing connection fees – (941) 861-6767  [ option 3]
  • PCSSRP documents



Are we on the chopping block?

March 27, 2017

Current status

The December 20 post discussed the last official update of our sewer project: “The design is 100 percent complete with all required permits.  The project is currently advertised for construction bids.  Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2017 with an approximate 9-month construction duration.”  (Additional information can be found in the PCSSRP Monthly Status Report.)

Budget shortfall

Your N3 Committee has been closely following the progress of our neighborhood sewer project.  At the Feb 17 Budget Workshop county staff presented a Capital Improvement Project Prioritization to the Commissioners and the bottom line is there is not enough money for all projects.  So, which ones to cut?  When the PCSSRP was was discussed, Commissioner Maio asked for a report on “literature that has been provided and the expectations of owners.”

Budget Strategy Workshop March 29

This coming Wednesday Mar 29 the County Commission is holding another Budget Workshop.  The meeting starts at 9:00 AM and is open to the public.  Here is  page 85 from the presentation commissioners will see:

What should concerned residents do?

  • You can email commissioners at and ask them to approve Option 3.
  • Commissioner Maio asked what our expectations are: Let him know we expect to begin this Spring and be completed by December 2017
  • Attend the meeting on Wednesday and speak during either of the two the Open to the Public segments (click here for meeting agenda).
  • If you can’t attend the meeting you can view it by going to “Televised Meetings.”

Presentation for March 29 Budget Workshop

Here’s the full Presentation Package (Phillippi Creek Overview starts on pg. 71).

3-29 Presentation


How Can I Lower My Water Bill?

February 21, 2017

According to the EPA website “…landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use…”,  so it would seem that a good place to start conserving water would be the lawn.  There are numerous articles on the topic; here’s one from the Huffington Post. And this Atlantic article says lawns “have now outlived their purpose.”  So, let’s find out…

How much am I spending to water my lawn?


Everyone’s usage is different, but if you use 4,000 gallons per month for lawn irrigation, today you will pay Pluris approximately $26 (you can calculate your personal water usage or use this estimator).  After we are connected to the sewer an additional $30 will be added for a monthly charge of $56 just for the lawn!  One of our N3 neighbors recently took this approach: get rid of the grass.

What is xeriscape?

Xeriscaping is landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need for water from irrigation.  This type of landscaping has become popular in drought-stricken western states in the last few years and while we haven’t gotten to a West Coast level of crisis (yet), you can see that water is becoming expensive. So, what to do?


Allison Werner, our neighbor at 3340 Tanglewood Dr, recently had her yard professionally xeriscaped (click here): (1) removed all turf grass, (2) put down heavy-duty weed barrier, (3) covered with washed shell, (4) installed low maintenance, drought tolerant plants with drip irrigation. Drive by and take a look… a complete yard make-over may not be for everyone, but anything you can do will save you money on your water bill, not to mention fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, gas and oil for lawnmowers, etc

Pluris south gate water rates

The monthly base charge is $7.18 plus $ per 1000 gallons:

  • 0 to 6,000 – $5.70
  • 6001 to 12,000 – $6.48
  • 12,000 and up – $7.52

( complete schedule of charges: pluris-water-rates)


 Informational links

Commissioners Approve Re-design for N3

June 24, 2014

The Board of County Commissioners has approved the re-design of our Area N-3 sewer system to the recently proposed “hybrid gravity” system. This means that the ball is finally rolling toward sewer service for our neighborhood.

Jaimol Charles, the county’s manager of this project, informs us that in mid-July, the consultants will begin a survey of our neighborhood to locate underground facilities. Once that is done, the consultants will prepare a preliminary (or conceptual) plan for the county and neighborhood to review before proceeding with the final design.

As a reminder, the “hybrid gravity” or “enhanced gravity” system that has been proposed calls for a relatively small number (perhaps 6 to 10) of underground lift stations throughout the neighborhood in the public right of way (i.e., under the streets or in other slivers of county-owned property). This system replaces the former proposed “grinder pump” system that would have placed a pump in each of our yards. Your committee analyzed that proposal and determined that it posed many potential problems to homeowners and the county, and we prevailed upon the commissioners to reject the grinder pumps in favor of a truly central, public sewer system. The county hired Giffels Webster Engineers to take a fresh look at our neighborhood, and the engineers offered the idea of the “hybrid gravity” or “enhanced gravity” system. The N-3 committee has endorsed this proposal as offering the highest level of service and the least detrimental effect on our community of the available options.

Once the preliminary design in complete, you should expect to receive notice of a public meeting at which residents will be able to review the plans.

We will continue to pass on information as we receive it from the county.

Hybrid Sewer Update – June 2014

June 7, 2014

Redesign Ready for Commission Approval


We recently received a progress update from our N3 Project Manager, Ms. Jaimol Charles.  The scope for the design of our neighborhood has been developed with Giffels/Webster Engineers and will be presented to the Commissioners for their approval at the regularly scheduled BCC meeting on Tuesday June 10th.
The meeting will be held at 9 AM at the R. L. Anderson Admin. Center, 4000 S Tamiami Trail, Venice Fla.  It is Agenda Item No. 26… you can view details here. Click on the title of the item in the left hand window to read the supporting material.
Thank you,
N3 Neighborhood Committee

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  and look at the left side menu… lots of basic information here.

Now go to > 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

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



Sarasota County Budget Meeting

May 16, 2013

but first, a letter to the Commissioners

Prior to the May 14th Budget Workshop our neighbor Walt Menzel emailed the Commissioners regarding our neighborhood sewer project.  Two points Walt made:

(1) for areas already completed, “Mr. MacFarlane, Sarasota County, indicated that the total cost per home ranged from $9,000 to $13,000. He also indicated that every property owner pays the same price of $5,400. This means that some homeowners got a better deal than other homeowners. Of course, this makes sense and is expected as just the way government programs work. It is a way to spread the program cost out over many people”

(2) [the N3 area]  is one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the program, [having] significant direct exposure to Phillippi Creek. 

Commissioner Robinson’s response

“I appreciate your sentiments about pollution and cost spreading, but in reality we have a great big balancing act full of more variables than that.  One thing I can promise you, we are reviewing N-3 and now the whole Septic Replacement System with the suggestions and ideas of the residents of N-3 in our minds.

Thank you for participating in the public process, your participation is making government better”.

May 14th meeting

This Budget Workshop had some real significance for our neighborhood!  Although not listed on the agenda, Commissioner Robinson introduces N3 into the discussion (17:40).  During the following conversations George MacFarlane states at least three times (20:38, 21:50, 22:18) that “N3 is presently funded for $3,000,000”. This is particularly good news because although Mr. MacFarlane claims a vacuum system for N3 could cost “as much as $3,600,000”, the N3 Committee Review  has shown a more realistic estimate of $2,630,558.

Commission approval

Although the official minutes have not been posted, this is on the meeting website:

Approved Option 2, to complete the current five year Capital Improvement Program using $8.4 million Surtax 3 funding with $12.5 million from the State Revolving Fund and to complete 12,430 total connections (82 percent of the Phillippi Creek Septic System Replacement Program)

what’s next?

The May 14th meeting was the third budget workshop this year.  There are two more scheduled in June (12th and 21st) and a final workshop is scheduled for Aug 20th.  The final budget will be adopted at Public Hearings in September.And don’t forget… we have an N3 “policy discussion” meeting coming up sometime in June.

watch the meetings

I encourage everyone to go online and view the meetings… watch the entire proceedings or go to the time stamps I have listed.

Here’s how: go to  On the right hand side of the homepage click on the blue box that says VIDEO CENTRAL.  Cursor over to left side menu, click on County Commission.  Find BCC  Budget Workshop  May 14, 2013, Video.  That’s all there is to it!

This is a great resource we have to be able to sit in on these meetings from the comfort and privacy of our homes.  How many communities have this service?… my guess is not many.  With our laptops and PCs we should all be able to participate. And as Commissioner Robinson tells us, our participation is making government better.

Storm Survivial

February 10, 2013

That’s the title of a 2005 article from the civil engineering publication CE News.  The article describes experiences from Florida 2004, the “Year of the Hurricane”.  You’ll recall that was the year that wiped out the low pressure pump system in Rockridge, FL  (blog archives “Other Communities Experiences” 11/25/2012).  A vacuum system was later chosen to replace the low pressure pumps for the 416 Rockridge homes.

Of course the current weather news is snowstorms, not hurricanes. But swap a hurricane for a blizzard and the  catastrophic results are the same: no electricity for days or weeks, roads are impassable and help is difficult to come by.

Vacuum sewers withstand Florida’s hurricanes

Mike Ray, operations manager for Englewood Water District:  “We had all kinds of problems …, but the vacuum sewers never missed a beat.”

Robert Campbell, Village of Palm Springs:  We had zero occurrences of sewer spills from vacuum systems; other municipalities were allowing sewage to flow onto the ground because they had no power.”

James Moore, water dept. of Carrabelle (Fla panhandle):  Other than checking the fuel and oil in the backup power units, the vacuum sewers required none of our time… the system had no downtime and continued to service our customers.”

Craig Bliss, Water Reclamation Mgr. for Sarasota County: “The vacuum stations required very little preparation, and we never lost [sewer] service, even though we lost electrical power.” As vacuum systems are expanded, “that will mean a lot fewer headaches for us the next time a hurricane comes through”.

(Read the article CE News – Storm Survival  to learn more about real-life experiences here in Florida)

What about grinder pumps?

Although no sewer system is perfect, it is clear that vacuum systems perform well in storms and other power outage situations.  But let’s not demonize grinder pumps; it’s not as though the county is proposing to put Port-a-Potties in our yards.  In some situations grinder pumps can be the technology of choice. Ironically, some of those situations involve the most expensive homes: luxury lake front and beach front (read the Jan 22 post “Location, location. location…” in the archives under grinder pumps).  So, yes, we’ll use them where they are the best choice, but let’s keep the total number to a minimum so that county crews will be able to maintain them. Simply put, grinder pumps are not the best choice for our N3 neighborhood or for Sarasota County Utilities.

CE News – Storm Survival

N3 Committee’s Review of the Technical Memorandum

February 6, 2013

On August 31, 2012 Sarasota County Staff made a presentation at the South Gate Community Center to explain why grinder pumps were the designated sewer system for the N3 neighborhood.  On December 18, 2012 the County Staff published their Design Technical Memorandum upholding that decision.  The N3 neighborhood committee recently published a critical review of their report.  You will find both documents in the links below; review and compare them and send in your comments.  Please forward these reports to anyone you know that may have expertise in this area.

Review of N3 Tech Memo 2-4-2103

N3 Tech Memo Final 12-18-2012