Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Ditches of Manatee County


Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

On many of the streets and roadways we drive by, and on, here in Manatee County, they are your constant companion. Look to the right, look to the left, and there they are: open clogged, algae filled, and full of mosquito breeding standing water drainage ditches.

Open ditches here in Manatee County do make for an interesting drive, you never know what you're going to see floating in one of those open trenches.

For a general definition of drainage ditch check out  Center for Environmental Excellence: “Vegetated ditches are ditches with vegetation to reduce water velocities, and erosion control grass mixtures are typically used to vegetate ditches. Vegetated ditches help improve the quality of storm water that runs off a highway by slowing water velocities and trapping sediment, metals, nutrients, petroleum products, pesticides, bacteria and other contaminants.”

The existence of open drainage ditches and culverts can be traced back to as far as 2500 BC. Take a look at this article from Grey Water Action by Joaquin I. Uy Cesspools and Cholera: The Development of the Modern Sewer.

It seems here in Manatee County that the open roadside ditch is the County's answer to storm water and water runoff management, especially in Eastern Manatee County as development runs rampant.

Some developers front their developments with buried culverts while others are allowed to merely create a road access with an overpass/culvert over the open drainage ditch.

Also, take note of this: if you look carefully at the site plan of your current or proposed new home in a development here in Manatee County, you will notice something on the site plan called drainage easement. This drainage easement is essentially a somewhat shallow open drainage ditch as defined above to lead rainwater and storm water out of the home sites of a development often draining into a retention pond which ultimately empties into a roadside drainage ditch.

We built our new home here in Manatee County in 2018 and 2019, and one of the things that I have noticed is that within 3 miles of my new home, two new homes have been constructed both with septic tank systems. Both homes are located on roads with open drainage ditches, and the septic systems are within a few yards of the open drainage ditch.

Why Manatee County is still allowing septic systems to be used in new homes needs a review.

Maintenance on these Manatee County open ditches seem to be a bit sporadic. At least in my area of Manatee County along Gillette Road and Experimental Farm Road, open ditch maintenance rarely occurs.

To report infrastructure and maintenance issues such as a drainage ditch that is full of standing water, clogged, overgrown, or blocked call Manatee County Public Works at (941) 708-7497, or report the issue online.

Don't stand around waiting for a rapid response, you'll go on what is a fairly long list and the County will get to it someday.

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