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St. Pete water main break spills 605,000 gallons of reclaimed water into Lake Maggiore

The City of St. Petersburg, which was put under state oversight for its ailing sewer system in 2017, is expecting a $10,000 to $15,000 penalty.
Tampa Bay Watch volunteer Frank Gallant, of Tampa, works to remove plastics and polystyrenes in 2018 from a Watergoat which has been installed on Lake Maggiore at Dell Holmes Park in an effort to protect wildlife and the stop debris from causing damage to the ecosystem. A crack in a 10-inch reclaimed watermain in a canal that feeds into Lake Maggoire dumped over 605,000 gallons of fully treated reclaimed water on Aug. 8, 2021.
Tampa Bay Watch volunteer Frank Gallant, of Tampa, works to remove plastics and polystyrenes in 2018 from a Watergoat which has been installed on Lake Maggiore at Dell Holmes Park in an effort to protect wildlife and the stop debris from causing damage to the ecosystem. A crack in a 10-inch reclaimed watermain in a canal that feeds into Lake Maggoire dumped over 605,000 gallons of fully treated reclaimed water on Aug. 8, 2021. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Aug. 13

ST. PETERSBURG — An older, pressurized distribution main at the bottom of a canal that feeds into Lake Maggiore cracked Sunday, dumping 605,102 gallons of fully treated reclaimed water.

According to an unauthorized discharge data collection form from the City of St. Petersburg, the discharge from the 10-inch main went on for 14 hours. The main has been turned off until materials arrive in October to replace the pipe.

John Palenchar, the city’s director of water resources, said St. Petersburg Police noticed a small fountain rising from the canal and reported the leak. He said the police often train their dogs at neighboring Dell Holmes Park.

“Because it is such a significantly sized reclaim main, this is the largest one I can recall for quite some time,” Palenchar said, explaining that most failures that dump a couple hundred gallons happen where the service connects to a particular home.

“Being a 10-inch main,” he said, “I can’t remember the last time we had one this large.”

Michael Renshaw, the city’s water systems maintenance manager, said the main was installed in 1979. The department is working on a city-wide inspection and replacement program, inspecting all areas where pipes are in saturated soil or exposed water and ranking them by their condition.

Palenchar said the city’s environmental compliance division is taking water samples at the lake. He said there is no bacterial or biological hazard, but there is a concern about nutrients from the discharge. The lake is being monitored for nitrogen levels and any impact it may have on the lake.

Residents can look up the Pinellas Recreational Water Quality Map found on the city’s website. Palenchar said the Escherichia coli (E. coli) currently being monitored at the lake is not caused by the spill.

About 200 feet of the reclaimed main is out, Palenchar said, affecting three customers, one of them being Dell Holmes Park.

Because the spill reached surface water, it triggers a mandatory report to the state. The city has been under a state consent order to spend hundreds of millions to fix its ailing sewer system since 2017, after 200 million gallons of sewage were dumped into the local waterways and streets since 2015.

Palenchar said the city anticipates receiving a penalty in the next month or two of $10,000 to $15,000, which will be paid out of the water resources budget.