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Wastewater leak prompts evacuations

A leak of reclaimed water from a wastewater treatment plant in southwest Largo led to the evacuation of about 200 people for about three hours Thursday night, authorities said.

An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 gallons of reclaimed water leaked from a 40-foot-tall storage tank that holds 5-million gallons, authorities said. The leak was caused by a faulty valve, Pinellas County sheriff's spokesman Mac McMullen said.

The leak was reported about 6:55 p.m., at the McKay Creek Reclaimed Water Pump Station off Hamlin Boulevard. Residents of the Shipwatch Tennis Club, Indian Springs Colony and the Star-Lite Mobile Home Park were evacuated.

Evacuees were directed to two local churches, Calvary Episcopal Church in Indian Rocks Beach and St. Jerome's Parish.

About 30 people went to each shelter, McMullen said. Other evacuees milled about the site or went elsewhere. Authorities were getting ready to let residents back into their homes about 10:15.

Gene O'Sullivan, 54, was at home at the Star-Lite park when, he said, firefighters "kept pounding on my door. I thought it was a fire."

He initially went to Morton Plant Hospital, where he works as a patient care technician, before returning to the park.

At the Star-Lite park, Wayne Daudelin, 50, said the leak interrupted his fifth anniversary with his wife, Melissa, 31.

"We could hear the water just gushing out of the thing," said Daudelin, who lives in Ontario, Canada, where he works at the Thundering Waters Golf Course. The noise, he said, "just brought back memories."