West Pasco spill dumps 18 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Gulf

Tropical storm rainfall from July inundated Pasco wastewater facilities.
West Pasco Government Center.
West Pasco Government Center. [ Special to the Times ]
Published Sept. 15, 2021

PORT RICHEY — Heavy rain in July led to an 18 million-gallon discharge of partially treated wastewater into the Gulf of Mexico from the Embassy Hills Waste Water Treatment Plant in Port Richey, officials have reported.

A pollution report issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection this week indicated that excess rain from Tropical Storm Elsa, which came ashore in the northern Gulf in July, “resulted in partially treated wastewater breaching the reject pond and going into a stormwater drainage ditch that flows to the Gulf.”

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The extra rain plus diverted wastewater flows from another nearby treatment plant overloaded the system, according to Ryan Hughes, Pasco County spokesperson. He said the overflow did receive secondary treatment, including disinfection. “This should have minimal harm or impacts on the environment, and we are currently working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on regulatory compliance,” he said.

Wastewater samples were taken throughout the overflow time frame from July 7 through July 12, state environmental officials reported.

“Diesel-powered pumps were used to move water away from the residential homes, but diesel fuel was not part of the spill,” Hughes said. The plant has been back to normal operating conditions since that time, he said, and “we have taken remedial steps to avoid this issue from happening again.”