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Longboat Key leaders set to decide on how to handle sewage break penalties

Longboat Key leaders are set to hold another private meeting this month to discuss how to address the repercussions from the town’s June 2020 mainland sewage line break and spill of millions of gallons of effluent.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection seeks $188,382 in civil penalties and costs from the town, though that figure has been reduced from the initial proposal of $242,652.50.

“I don’t think there’s any one specific reason that I could give you,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said about the state's reduction. “It’s just been part of our back and forth with the state.”

Harmer said the lawyers on both sides have negotiated the language of the proposed consent order. He also mentioned the formula the FDEP uses to determine penalties, based on the size of the spill. FDEP initially estimated the spill at 17 million gallons, though a town-hired consultant delivered a report estimating the spill, which took place about 400 feet from the shores of Sarasota Bay between June 17-30, at 14.7 million.

Longboat Key town commissioners can also choose to offset the penalty by implementing an in-kind environmental project worth at least $281,073, subject to FDEP approval.