LARGO — First came the heavy rainfall: more than 7.5 inches.
Then, the layer of brown muck floating at the top of the pond as sewage overflowed into Golf Lake Condominiums. Before long, birds were swarming around the sewage, and a rank stench filled the air.
"It was like every seagull in Florida was here," resident Patti Allibone said. "We saw fish starting to float to the top."
The city of Largo is redesigning its sewage system to prevent overflows such as the one that occurred July 8 at Golf Lake Condos, but the new system won't be in place until fall 2013, city officials said.
Heavy rainfall in July caused sewage pipes near Golf Lake Condos to overflow into a stormwater pond that lies in the center of the condominium complex on Starkey Road, said Irvin Kety, Largo's environmental services director.
Kety estimates more than 30,000 gallons of sewage were discharged. The city vacuumed 60,000 gallons of water and applied disinfectants to the area, he said.
"That overflow lasted less than 24 hours," Kety said. "In the past, it would have lasted many days."
Under the city's Capital Improvement Plan, Largo plans to design a new pipeline from the west end of the city to its wastewater plant. The project, which includes improvements to existing pump stations, would eliminate sewage overflows, Kety said.
The city is scheduled to finish the $23,500 project by September 2013, Kety said. Although the city cannot eliminate overflows until then, Kety doesn't think Largo will encounter problems as serious as the Golf Lake overflow.
"Until we get the new project completed, we're going to have additional overflows under certain rainfall events," Kety said. "The good news is . . . it takes either a very large storm or a number of days of significant rain."
Golf Lake resident Mary Freeman said she was happy with how the city handled the overflow in July.
"The city was right on the ball," Freeman said.
Freeman, who has lived at Golf Lake for three years, said this was the first time she had seen sewage overflow at the complex. She is not concerned about it happening again.
"Even if it did happen again, I was pleased with how the city took care of it," Freeman said. "I have faith the city will take care of the problem."
Allibone said the city's response to the overflow was quick. But at times, she still can smell the sewage.
While the city will continue to respond to sewage backup, residents can take some measures to prevent overflow and remain healthy, Kety said.
He advised against pouring grease down drains, which can cause blockages. Kety also said residents should refrain from draining rainwater into sewer lines or opening manholes to drain floodwater.
"I don't recommend people allow their children to go out into flooded streets to play," Kety said. "There's potential in any neighborhood that sewage could come up a manhole."
Katie Park can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.