Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

St. Pete Beach deals with sewage overflows near Alden Suites

ST. PETE BEACH — For the past month, when it rains or the winds blow, smelly, paper- and feces-laden sewage streams onto Gulf Boulevard near Gulf Winds Drive.

The immediate cause is the catastrophic failure of the two remaining working sewer system pumps at the city's Master Pump Station that happened in late October.

The chronic cause is the inability to provide enough continuous pumping power to offset water infiltration that is backing up the city's sewer system during heavy rains and high winds.

Portable pumps have failed several times, once because of vandalism.

Public works director Steve Hallock said Tuesday that he hopes the installation Friday of a new and secure portable pump will temporarily stop the sewage overflows.

A permanent fix at a cost of more than $500,000 is at least four months away.

Since Oct. 26, the sewage has spilled onto Gulf Boulevard at least four times, sometimes at a rate of hundreds of gallons. The last time the sewer system overflowed was Sunday, when about 50 gallons spilled onto the road.

Each time, sheriff's deputies blocked off the flooded portion of the road directly across from the Alden Suites resort while city workers fixed the problem and disinfected the street.

Meanwhile, residents of the nearby 282-unit Sylvette Condominiums at 6161 Gulf Winds Drive continue to endure the stench, street flooding and even sewage backups into toilets and bathtubs as high as the fourth floor.

"There is toilet paper, fecal matter in the streets, and the smell is atrocious," says Martin Ripans, interim manager and president of the condo association. "This is affecting our residents, who can smell it inside, especially on the ground floor."

Ripans says he is concerned that if the problem continues it will affect the city's tourism.

Another area resident, Jim Anderson, took pictures and sent them to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP sent investigators to the city last week to inspect the problem and is now demanding reports from the city each time there is a sewage overflow.

In an email to Anderson, DEP external affairs manager Ana Gibbs wrote that her agency can impose a "consent order" that would require the city to improve the sewer system.

"In all fairness to the city, the department must give the city an opportunity to provide information regarding the system and what is being done." Gibbs wrote, adding she anticipates future meetings with city officials.

The four failed pumps at the city's master pump station were installed in 2007 and should have lasted at least another decade, Hallock said.

The pumps at some of the city's other lift stations are not doing well either.

An engineering report prepared in August said that a number of pumps were "old technology," in "poor condition" and "fail two to three times a week from burnout and clogging."

At the time of purchase, the master station pumps met standard design specifications, but apparently that design was flawed, and the pumps — or their parts — are no longer available, Hallock said.

Last week, the City Commission authorized more than $500,000 in emergency spending to install portable pumps and to buy and engineer new permanent pumps at two pumping stations.

"I thought I could be frugal and get a few more years out of (the pumps). Our timing was off by about six months," Hallock told the commission.

Over the next year, the city plans to replace these and additional pumps at a cost of $2.65 million, as well as begin to address water infiltration.

Further improvements to the sewer system could cost $1 million a year, Hallock said.

Anderson, who is suing the city in an attempt to block implementation of the comprehensive plan, said the sewage spills are evidence that the city's infrastructure is not adequate to handle major redevelopment.

Hallock, though, said the system is operating at 50 percent of capacity. Once water infiltration is blocked, the system should last another 50 years, he said.

The city's 38.7-mile-long sewer system includes a master pump station and 16 smaller pumping stations to handle the sewage produced by up to 20,000 residents and tourists at the peak of the season.

A good portion of the system was installed in the 1950s, when the city was actually four separate cities that joined in 1957.

Comments
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Woman says Hernando County commissioner kept her as a ‘sex slave’

Woman says Hernando County commissioner kept her as a ‘sex slave’

Whatever he wanted, I had to do."PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hernando County commissioner arrested on prostitution chargesThe commissioner faces charges of operating a location for prostitution and two counts of purchasing services from a person engaged in p...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Cops used dead man’s finger in attempt to access his phone. It’s legal, but is it okay?

Cops used dead man’s finger in attempt to access his phone. It’s legal, but is it okay?

LARGO — Most people agree what the Largo detectives did at the funeral home was legal.What they diverge on is whether it was appropriate."I just felt so disrespected and violated," said Victoria Armstrong, whose fiance, Linus F. Phillip., was shot an...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

TAMPA — The NFL draft is one big game of Liar's Poker. Deal me out.Even the guys with a seat at the table don't know when someone is bluffing.Bucs general manager Jason Licht knows that the team's No. 7 overall pick this year will be affected b...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Parents sue Tampa football league, former coach accused of lewd conduct

Parents sue Tampa football league, former coach accused of lewd conduct

The parents of two teens have filed a lawsuit against the Tampa Bay Youth Football League and the man accused of harassing and molesting them while he was their coach.The parents say the organization and Davarius Durham were negligent and caused phys...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Tuesday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining ot...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Woman attacks door of special needs bus with kids inside, curses at driver, deputies say

Woman attacks door of special needs bus with kids inside, curses at driver, deputies say

TAMPA — In an apparent fit of anger, a woman banged on a special needs bus door until it cracked. Children were inside and may have heard the string of profanities she shouted at the bus driver, deputies said.Now they want her to pay $250 in damages....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Updated: 1 hour ago