74,500 gallons of wastewater spill into Pinellas County’s Boca Ciega Bay

More than 100,000 gallons total spilled near the Treasure Island Causeway from the decades-old standpipe.
The Treasure Island Causeway, connecting the island to mainland St. Petersburg.
The Treasure Island Causeway, connecting the island to mainland St. Petersburg.
Published Aug. 24, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — More than 100,000 gallons of wastewater leaked from a pipe on Sunday morning near the Treasure Island Causeway, 74,500 gallons of which spilled into the Boca Ciega Bay.

The wastewater burst from a decades-old pipe that was located within St. Petersburg’s city limits but owned by St. Pete Beach. The pipe was so old that the city of St. Pete Beach was unaware it existed, St. Pete Beach Public Works Director Mike Clarke said in a phone interview Monday evening.

The wastewater spill was reported to St. Petersburg officials just after 10 a.m. Sunday and lasted until 1:30 p.m., according to a report submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The sanitary sewer leak stemmed from a two-inch standpipe that had not been used in decades, Clarke said.

“When you have these older systems that were put in the ground back in the 1950s, and ‘60s, you know, personnel (turns over) and knowledge transfers, sometimes they’re not all that great,” Clarke said. “And the current staff at St. Pete Beach, we did not know that standpipe was even there. Had we known it, we would have had information on it to do maintenance.”

St. Pete Beach is in the midst of an engineering inspection of its wastewater pipes, Clarke said. The engineering firm conducting the inspection had not yet gotten to the pipe that burst.

St. Petersburg crews cleaned up the leak and prevented about 24,000 gallons from reaching the Boca Ciega Bay. They’re currently conducting water testing to gauge the water quality of the bay. “Caution” signs are in the area of the spill, which say that the surface area and surrounding waters “may be impacted by wastewater.”

The water quality tests will take a few days to show results, Clarke said.

The leak occurred at the corner of Central Avenue and 79th Street South, an intersection where utilities owned by St. Petersburg, Treasure Island, St. Pete Beach and Pinellas County are clustered together below the ground. Immediately after the leak, crews did not know who owned the pipe that burst, Clarke said.

The four municipalities were all in contact as crews cleaned up the wastewater.

“We’d like to thank St. Petersburg staff for assisting St. Pete Beach — and assure the public that we’re doing everything we possibly can to prevent these types of incidents in the future, and follow proper reporting and cleanup procedures,” Clarke said.

St. Pete Beach’s wastewater contractor is looking at how to permanently replace the pipe that burst, Clarke said.