County sewage had dangerous bacteria
A University of South Florida study released today found antibiotic-resistance bacteria in untreated sewage spilled from a broken Pinellas County sewer line in the Joe's Creek area, north of St. Petersburg, into Boca Ciega Bay in 2014.
Two USF researchers published their findings Wednesday in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology Journal, concluding that the sewage "raise several significant public health concerns."
The 500,000 gallon spill in September 2014 was significantly smaller that subsequent spills from the city of St. Petersburg spills in 2015 and last month, which released more than 40 million gallons of sewage into Tampa Bay and Boca Ciega Bay. Tampa and Largo have also had significant discharges in the last two years.
Suzanne Young, a PhD student in environmental microbiology who co-authored the study, said the county spill was studied because reasearchers found out about it from news coverage. They haven't had tested the more recent spills from the city, but hope to do so in the future.
"Environmental surveillance is really important," she said.
Climate change and development present a challenge as more rain and more waste can spread dangerous bacteria more widely, she said.
What's concerning about their findings is the vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) found in the untreated sewage hasn't been seen outside of hospital waste before, Young said.
(The original post incorrectly stated the 2014 spill was in the city of St. Petersburg)