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Longboat Key sewers leak from the outside in

Water leaking into the Longboat Key’s sewer system is part of the reason for the difference between what customers produce and the overall total.

Longboat Key’s wastewater system, in theory, is sealed and contained within itself.

In reality, said Longboat Key Utilities Manager Burt Warner, it’s not.

“This has been going on for years, from my understanding,” Warner said.

The issue raised questions a few weeks ago when, at a meeting with the Town Commission, Public Works Director Isaac Brownman told commissioners that the island pays to treat about 39% more wastewater than residents and businesses produce.

“Really, overall, we do know that the amount of wastewater that [Longboat Key] returns to us has seen fluctuation,” said Amy Pilson, spokeswoman for Manatee County Utilities System.

And that fluctuation comes from many factors, Warner said. Inflow and infiltration, or the amount of water that penetrates the wastewater system through cracks in old pipes or loose joints between sewer ducts, is one.

For example, in September, Hurricane Irma dumped a significant amount of stormwater on the island, much of which was absorbed into the ground.

Some of that ended up in the sewer system, resulting in about 10 million more gallons of wastewater than island customers produced. The cost of this excess is built into the wastewater cost to ratepayers, said Sue Smith, finance director.