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Surge of rain prompts Pinellas officials to dump sewage in creek

The heavy rains that fell on the Tampa Bay area this week contributed to a decision by Pinellas County officials to dump about 150,000 gallons of sewage into a creek.

County officials said the heavy rain — coupled with repairs to a large, corroded water main — prompted workers to divert overflows from the South Cross Bayou Water Reclamation Facility in St. Petersburg into Joe's Creek.

It was the first time the county has taken the standard but rare measure since Tropical Storm Debby last year. About 150,000 gallons of sewage was redirected into the creek, Pinellas County director of water and sewer Bob Powell said. The facility typically treats about 22 million gallons daily, he said, but additional stormwater on Tuesday generated 58 million gallons.

"If this rain keeps up, I would probably not be in contact with that water," Powell said, advising swimmers and fishermen to avoid Joe's Creek until at least Monday. "Even if there was not overflow, it's not clean, healthy water given recent storms."

Heavy rains have pounded the area since the weekend, including a good dousing Wednesday. A flood watch issued by the National Weather Service, originally set to expire Wednesday morning, was extended through 8 p.m.

As of 7 p.m., 1.5 inches of rain fell on St. Petersburg, 1.37 on Clearwater, 0.2 on Tampa, 1.68 on New Port Richey and 0.83 on Weeki Wachee.

St. Petersburg has received around 5 inches of rain since Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, and Tampa has received almost 4 inches.

During the height of the storms Wednesday, emergency personnel were contending with several water rescues in north Pinellas County.

A small sailboat near Sand Key capsized, but a boat from a nearby sailing center rescued the people on board. Moments later, Clearwater Fire & Rescue rescued two people from an inflatable boat near Clearwater Memorial Causeway, said spokeswoman Joelle Castelli.

About 40 people also were rescued from a ferry Wednesday afternoon as the storms moved through. The ferry, which departs from Honeymoon Island State Park, was headed to Caladesi Island when strong winds blew it onto a sandbar, where it got stuck, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Gary Morse.

No injuries were reported in any of the incidents.

So will today be wet again?

It's likely, as rain chances are 60 percent, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez.

Times staff writers Zachary T. Sampson and Laura C. Morel contributed to this report.

Surge of rain prompts Pinellas officials to dump sewage in creek 07/03/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 9:52pm]
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