A Message from Mayor Woodruff
On behalf of the City of Sanford, I would like to apologize for the hardship experienced by those in our Downtown area who are connected to our vacuum sewer system and who are experiencing system failures. We understand you expect dependable utility services.
As a result of Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole, the City of Sanford was not prepared for the level of failure that occurred in the last few months. The amount of water the storms produced resulted in the City’s vacuum sewer system not functioning properly. City staff crews have been working tirelessly, struggling to keep the system operating at even a minimal level. When you see them, please thank them.
We are replacing parts and upgrading the system as quickly as parts are available. Our intent is to replace all of the control systems in each of the nearly 500 vacuum pits, add an additional vacuum pump, and remove several heavy users from the system to free up capacity.
The City of Sanford expects to have this completed by late 2023/early 2024. Please be assured we are working as hard as we can to correct this situation.
For additional information visit the City’s website page “Vacuum Sewer” at Vacuum Sewer | Sanford, FL (sanfordfl.gov) or https://sanfordfl.gov/government/public-works-utilities/water_and_sewer/vacuum-sewer/.
To report a problem call our 24 Hour Utilities Customer Service Line at 407-688-5100.
We appreciate your understanding.
Mayor Art Woodruff
Vacuum Sewer System Emergency Project
Information related to the City of Sanford’s ongoing project.
Progress at a Glance
Action Plan for Phase 1
Current Action Items
- Approval/Adoption of Resolution No. 2023-3112,a uthorizing emergency procurements.
- Designate a call line for the Vacuum Sewer after hour Calls ( 688.5100 )
- Utility City Staff working overtime to pump down and maintain vacuum system every week
- Consultant Designing a of small lift stations to move 3 commercial customers off the vacuum sewer system (estimated cost $96,575)
- Submit the Purchase Order Requisitions following State and City procurement policy
- Repair Parts $674,454
- Additional Parts $40,481.17
- Vacuum Pump $249,000
- Training $61,250
- TOTAL $1,025,185.17 (Estimated total)
- City Staff has reprioritized ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) and SRF (State Revolving Funds) to utilize for Emergency Vacuum Sewer System repair.
Future Action Items
- Vendors for related services
- Pump Downs
- TV Lines
- Line Repair
- Leasing of Vac Trucks when some go off line
- Consultant design of Vacuum Sewer Pump Station Improvements
- Research a vendor Piggy Back or Joint Utilization Agreement
- Installation of 4 small downtown lift stations late Fall 2023
- Adding temporary contract employee
- Contracting with a Project Manager to coordinate the Vacuum Sewer System Action Items
Frequently Asked Questions
We would like to answer some common questions about the City’s ongoing emergency project for the Vacuum Sewer System repair and maintenance.
Vacuum sewerage systems consist of a vacuum station, where the vacuum is generated, the vacuum pipeline system, collection chambers with collection tanks and interface valve units. In contrast to conventional gravity sewerage systems with intermediate pumping stations, the permanent pressure within the vacuum system is maintained below atmospheric pressure. Moreover, vacuum technology reduces water consumption considerably, enabling flexible installations regardless of topography and water availability. (description provided by Vacuum Sewers | SSWM – Find tools for sustainable sanitation and water management!)
The City of Sanford’s vacuum sewer system was installed 30 years ago, primarily for the residential community downtown. This system was less disruptive to retrofit into the older neighborhood than traditional gravity sewer, but requires more ongoing maintenance. The vacuum main pipelines and valve pits are installed through alleyways and alongside existing infrastructure and utilities such as gas and telephone lines, making regular maintenance quite challenging. Recent storms and heavy rainfalls may have further damaged the system, causing more stormwater intrusion. In addition, the City of Sanford has experienced commercial growth downtown over the last few years. The system was not designed for the high volume of sewage at certain times and days that commercial usage generates. The vacuum sewer system installed in the 1990’s has been underperforming of late, and staff has spent extraordinary time and effort to keep it operational.
Please call the City of Sanford Customer Service Line at 407.688. 5100. After Hours, please call the same number and follow the prompts for the dedicated Vacuum Sewer Line.
This only impacts Sanford residents and customers in the general area of S. 2nd Street to 20th Street, and between French Avenue and Sanford Avenue.
The City’s utilities crews have been trying to keep up with the maintenance of approximately 500 vacuum pits, by replacing parts when available. However, shortage of talented staff and supply chain issues have further resulted in delays. Based on recommendations from the manufacturer of the system, the City is pursuing emergency procurement of replacement and upgraded valves, pumps and other equipment that will significantly improve reliability and performance of the system. Staff will be meeting with an engineering consultant to plan for improvements beyond the immediate upgrades.
Other improvements currently in design include construction of three lift stations, for the Willow Tree, Tuffy’s and the Sanford Brewing Company. These lift stations will relieve pressure off the overwhelmed vacuum system, connecting the three high volume wastewater generators directly to gravity sewer lines.
In addition, the City is investigating and repairing other sources of groundwater intrusion into the vacuum system, including individual customer service lines and other contributing gravity pipelines
The City will regularly post updates about the action plan and project status to the City website. The City will also post appropriate notifications to their social media pages when they become available.
For more information you can listen to the City’s Sanford Says Podcast or Contact Utilities at 407.688.5100 or email UtilityCustomerService@sanfordfl.gov
Last updated 6/9/2023
Last updated 5/4/2023
The vacuum system is under full vacuum except Main 5, from 18th to 22nd Street, along Palmetto and Sanford Avenue. All levels are green, or operational, at this time. Staff rebuilt an additional 10 pits and 1 buffer tank. We received 100 new valves and controllers yesterday, and staff will start rebuilding an additional 100. Also, we plan to smoke test the area from 18th to 22nd Street, along Palmetto and Sanford Avenue this week to help locate the break still impacting customers in that area.
Last updated 4/27/2023
The vacuum system is still making forward progress. The attached pictures show valves and controllers that have been removed from the system and will be rebuilt in the future. The last picture is a great find for direct inflow that was coming directly into a buffer tank. The system is still operational throughout its entirety with the exception of Main 5 from 18th to 22nd Street.
Staff has already excavated 2 areas that were thought to be where breaks could be but has not been able to locate the failure as of yet. More locates will be set to investigate another area of interest. With the rain events that we experienced this week, the system preformed with no reportable issues.
Last updated 4/20/2023
Currently all of the system is online with the exception of the end of main 5, which is from 18th to 21st St.
Staff excavated around the area on Tuesday but is still investigating a break in the system. No break was found in the area.
Work will continue next week.
2100 Block of Sanford Avenue and 1900 Block of Palmetto Avenue will continue to be pumped at least twice a day until we can find the break and make repairs.
No vacuum calls for the last two nights, and there has been a great reduction in overtime hours.
Staff rebuilt about 10 valves to install on Thursday
Last updated 4/13/2023
40 controllers were delivered from FLOVAC
Vacuum Main #5 at 18th Street is still down – possible break. Gate valves have been bought in and will be deployed next week.
Vacuum Main #1B will be up by the end of day today
Vacuum Main #1A is online to 11th Street.
Vacuum Main #1 is online to 8th Street.
Vacuum Mains 2, 3, 4, and 5 are Online.
Vacuum Main #6 is online to 8th Street and Palmetto Avenue.
Tomorrow the crews will be doing rebuilds.
Thirty valves were rebuilt this week.
Three Public Works employees will be assisting tomorrow.
Last updated 4/6/2023
Improvements to the vacuum sewer system are happening daily. Staff is installing new equipment as it is received, with 120 full valve sets installed with a new delivery to be installed starting next week. There is an updated map which shows significant improvements on the vacuum sewer main between Sanford Ave and Palmetto Ave, between 8th St and 14th St. In addition to replacing equipment inside the valve ‘pits’, staff has tracked down and repaired two vacuum main breaks in the buried pipeline system. Every valve replaced and every vacuum main break repair increases the stability and reliability of the entire system. If you are still having sewer backups, please do not hesitate to call and please know we are working hard to restore every customer to full service.
Last updated 3/30/2023
Staff continued to make progress bringing individual vacuum pits to working condition by inspecting, replacing parts as needed, and testing the operation of the units. While we still have much work to do, 80% of the vacuum system is operating normally. Our ‘pump-down’ staff has increased by utilizing employees from other departments, as well as third-party vendors. Areas that are still having issues will be pumped down regularly and our goal is to be there before you need us, but if you are having an issue at your location please do not hesitate to call our customer service number, 407-688-5100 available 24-hours/day. With every repair, our system is tighter and more reliable for the entire vacuum sewer service area – these improvements are positively impacting customers, confirmed by reduced customer service call volume. More to come next week.
Last updated 3/23/2023
City Staff and our vendor have been working diligently to troubleshoot, repair, and/or replace parts of the vacuum sewer collection system. Staff has focused on bringing the most customers online as quickly as possible; however, there are still areas that are in a ‘failed’ state and are continuing to be pumped down manually. The good news for those still in the ‘red/incomplete’ zones as depicted in the map (linked here) is that our pump-down staff can focus on a smaller area and we anticipate much shorter response time to customer calls. The City’s focus is now on these remaining areas to bring them to an operational state as soon as possible. While we work on getting these last areas operational, other phases of the project are in motion to reduce the load on the vacuum sewer and increase reliability of the vacuum pump station.
Last updated 3/13/2023
Flovac started evaluation and installation work on Wednesday, March 8. The Gateway was installed this morning on the Elevated Water Tank next to the baseball field on Mellonville Avenue. The Gateway is part of the telemetry system that will help areas of direct inflow and infiltration, check vacuum pressures and troubleshoot the system wirelessly. The monitoring equipment will start being installed in the field once locates have been cleared for digging. City staff along with Flovac’s staff have started troubleshooting different pits, buffer tanks and mains.