MANATEE -- While it may just look like a lot of purple pipes to most, a nearly complete Lakewood Ranch irrigation project is simply beautiful to Florida's most venerable engineering professional group.
Last week, the Braden River Utilities Reclaimed Water Interconnect project won Project of the Year honors from the SunCoast chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The $13 million project will start pumping up to 6 million gallons of treated wastewater from Bradenton to Lakewood Ranch in May, where the water will be used to irrigate lawns, trees and other decorative plantings.
It is also expected to make the Braden River Watershed one of the most sustainable urban watersheds in the state.
The project is best known locally by the 20-inch diameter purple water mains that have been sitting on roadsides since the project started in 2013. The last of the pipe should be buried by May. The city of Bradenton plans to start pumping water in June or July.
The ASCE award recognizes the city of Bradenton and Braden River Utilities.
Claude Tankersley, Bradenton's director of public works, said he is pleased the project received the award, especially since finding a use for reclaimed wastewater has been a city goal for decades.
"My predecessors anticipated this project by 20 years," he said. "We're very excited about it."
The project provides a use for the water, 5 million gallons of which is being dumped into the Manatee River every day. The city does use some of the water to irrigate the River Run Golf Course, and sells it to agricultural and industrial clients including Tropicana. Braden River Utili
ties will purchase its share of the water for 35 cents per 1,000 gallons.
Bradenton pulls up to 6 million gallons of potable water from the Braden River every day for city residents and businesses to use. Tankersley said piping the reclaimed water back to Lakewood Ranch will put it back into the river's watershed to be used over and over again. Dumping it in the Manatee River, he said, is a waste.
"It's smart business, it's smart ecologically," he said.
Water treated at the Bradenton Wastewater Treatment Plant comes from homes and businesses throughout the city. Treatment includes a settling process, which removes large solids, the use of bacteria to consume organic compounds in the water, and a sterilization process that removes disease-causing pathogens.
Contaminants that remain after treatment includes nitrogen and phosphorous, compounds that reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in bodies of water. That oxygen reduction has been linked to fish kills and toxic algae blooms.
Bradenton has monitored the effects of those contaminants, but has seen no problems yet, Tankersley said. When the reclaimed water is applied to land and plants, nitrogen and phosphorous are absorbed, further filtering the water.
The project has required the construction of over more than nine miles of transmission pipeline. That pipeline will carry the water from the city's 27th St. E. pumping station to the start of the Braden River Utilities irrigation system on Lorraine Rd. just north of State Route 70. Two more miles of distribution line will send the water throughout Lakewood Ranch.
Kim Clayback, president of the ASCE's SunCoast chapter and an engineer at Jones Edmunds & Associates in Sarasota, said the award provides the reclaimed water project long overdue recognition. The project beat out about a half dozen other engineering entries, and now moves on to be judged at the state level.
"The project has flown under the radar for much of the construction schedule," Clayback said.
Jones Edmunds and Alberta, Canada-based Stantec were the private engineering companies hired to design the interconnect project.
The project will now be judged by the state ASCE chapter.
Calls made to Braden River Utilities for comments on the award and the project were not returned by press time Thursday.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton