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St. Petersburg official: Limit water use during Hurricane Ian

Claude Tankersley, the city’s public works administrator, also runs sandbag distribution.
St. Petersburg public works administrator Claude Tankersley, shown speaking to City Council members in September about the sewage crisis, told DEP official Michele Duggan in October to keep a close eye on the city’s website for an upcoming job.
St. Petersburg public works administrator Claude Tankersley, shown speaking to City Council members in September about the sewage crisis, told DEP official Michele Duggan in October to keep a close eye on the city’s website for an upcoming job.
Published Sep. 27|Updated Sep. 27

ST. PETERSBURG — The city’s public works administrator asked residents Tuesday to limit water use during Hurricane Ian to ease stress on the sewer system in anticipation of heavy rain.

Outside of the Southwest Water Treatment Plant, Claude Tankersley said the city’s water system is ready to endure Hurricane Ian, projected to make landfall as a Category 3 storm just south of Pinellas County.

But he called on the public’s help to limit nonessential water use to avoid the worst-case scenario that would lead the city to shut off its water supply and sewer system.

“We’re not asking you to not use water, we’re not asking you to not take care of essential needs for your water,” Tankersley said. “We are asking you to not do the unessential things such as clothes washing, dish washing, so that we can then have a system that’s ready, that can hit the ground running and fully operational.”

Tankersley said the city has added a lot of extra capacity to its wastewater treatment plants, which can handle up to 155 million gallons per day, significantly more than the city could take in 2016 during its sewage crisis.

He said the city also has done work in the collection system by lining the sewer system, fixing manholes and taking care of leaks that would allow groundwater or stormwater to enter and inundate the city’s system.

Tankersley said the system could handle a storm surge up to 15 feet and 20 inches of rain. But above a 15-foot surge, “we might have a few areas that we might need to protect our equipment.”

That doesn’t mean turning off water, Tankersley said, but it may force the city to turn off a piece of equipment, like a specific pump or specific electrical part.

If too many pieces of equipment fail, and the public doesn’t limit its water use, then the system could become overloaded and the city could have to turn off the water. But Tankersley doesn’t foresee that scenario.

Tankersley said the city is doing preventative maintenance by testing all pumps and ensuring water tanks are at their correct levels. About 500 public works employees will be working at plants during the storm, he said.

• • •

2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

IT'S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here's how to get ready.

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PHONE IT IN: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos.

SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.

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