PUNTA GORDA — A water spill half the size of an Olympic-size swimming pool occurred at Babcock Ranch last Friday.
The 385,000 gallons of water in the spill was reclaimed — or recycled wastewater and surface water that has been treated, then returned to be used for irrigation. The water that was discharged would have otherwise been used for public landscaping or through a home sprinkler system.
The water lost was not drinking water, and Babcock Ranch does not use drinking water for irrigation, according to Babcock Ranch spokesperson Lisa Hall.
A main line running up to Babcock’s new linear park broke, most likely due to damage from a small rock.
“The bedding of the pipe seemed questionable,” wrote Jon Meyer, the utility director for Town and Country Utilities. “The final backfill should be free of large rocks, organic material and debris.”
The spill took place between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., between Cannon Court and Telegraph Creek.
These line breaks don’t happen often, though, Hall assures, due to the area having such new infrastructure. This is the first significant spill the area has had.
“We are always monitoring the amount of water that goes out (of the pipes) and when the pressure drops,” Hall said.
To prevent future spills, Town and Country Utilities has implemented underground utility specifications and has a full-time utility inspector to ensure all infrastructure meets those specifications when it comes to materials and installation materials. If a future line does break, the utilities staff is notified and the system is isolated.
The irrigation system was never fully out of service. The break was discovered when construction crews were investigating the cause of a drop in pressure in the new park’s sprinkler system.
The break was located and repaired, restoring the sprinkler system to full pressure.
“Water that was supposed to be watering the park instead over-saturated the area at the point of the break,” Hall said.
After being in operation for under two years, Babcock Ranch’s Water Utilities department was recognized in March for outstanding treatment water and wastewater plant operations, maintenance and compliance.
The Department of Environmental Protection awarded the utility a 2018 Domestic Plant Operations Excellence Award in March.
The facility also received the 2019 Reuse System of the Year award from the Florida Water Environment Association.
The utility has implemented programs in safety training, preventive maintenance, emergency response planning, water and wastewater treatment and cross connection.