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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sewage woes not confined to St. Pete



St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman got plenty of raspberries from the public after his city dumped nearly 10 million gallons of partially-treated sewage into Tampa Bay last week after Tropical Storm Colin passed through.

But St. Pete wasn't the only city whose wastewater systems couldn't handle the foot of rain dropped by the storm.

--Tampa dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into the Hillsborough River.

--Clearwater had minor spills into Stevenson Creek.

--Gulfport dumped at least 50,000 gallons of sewage from popped manhole covers into Boca Ciega Bay.

--St. Pete Beach also dumped 331,000 gallons into Boca Ciega Bay.

The cities reported their spills, as required by law, to the Department of Environmental Protection, the same agency that is investigating St. Petersburg's dumps. The finaly tallies could change.

Largo, though, had the biggest spill outside of St. Pete when rainwater-engorged sewer flow led to at least 4 million gallons of partially-treated sewage spilling from its wastewater treatment plant  on 150th Avenue N near the Pinellas County Jail. 

The sewage had been allowed to settle, was aerated and filtered twice, but not disinfected before it spilled into Cross Bayou and eventually into Tampa Bay. Test showed a level of bacteria about 50 times safe levels. 

Irvin Kety, the city's environmental services director, said a similar event happened during last August's heavy rains. The city is spending $80 million to fix its leaky pipes and install upgrades, including more storage capacity, at its sewer plant.

Largo, unlike St. Petersburg, didn't alert the public of the spill. Nor was the magnitude of the spill included in a memo from City Manager Henry Schubert reviewing the effects of the storm.

That was an oversight, Schubert said Wednesday.

"At the height of the storm, I'm not sure if we thought that through completely," Schubert said.

Schubert pointed out that no one really swims or fishes in Cross Bayou, a waterway that connects the Gulf of Mexico to Tampa Bay and, for long stretches, resembles an industrialized irrigation ditch.

St. Petersburg officials also updated their spill numbers this week. About 230,000 gallons of untreated sewage bubbled up from manhole covers around the city, including about 60,000 gallons at Coffee Pot Bayou, which escaped from storm drains into the bayou, Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley said.

The City Council will discuss a raft of sewer issues and potential fixes today at their 2 p.m. meeting at City Hall, which is televised on St. Pete TV. 




[Last modified: Thursday, June 16, 2016 4:41pm]


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