Pinellas County officials are urging many south county residents not to flush their toilets or shower more than necessary, a message they're hoping will take some of the pressure off of the overburdened water treatment system.
Days of heavy rainfall have sent millions of extra gallons of water into the county's South Cross Bayou Water Reclamation Facility, where workers are trying to repair a 42-inch pipe. The deluge has made that work difficult and led officials to plead for reduced water usage.
The county's message applies to residents in Pinellas Park, Gulfport and beach towns, as well as residents of the unincorporated area in south county. It does not apply to St. Petersburg, which treats its own water.
Residents who ignore the request will not experience sewage backups or other unpleasantness, said Jim Dulaney, a Pinellas utilities manager. But without reductions, the constant rainfall could overwhelm the water treatment system, pushing some sewage into storm water basins, where it could end up in creeks without being disinfected.
"There's an environmental impact to the waterways, but not to our customers," Dulaney said. "Their toilets are going to flush, and their drains will drain, but it's impacting us."