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St. Pete stops dumping sewage into Tampa Bay

St. Petersburg dumped partially-treated sewage into Tampa Bay for 8 1/2 days before the last discharge at 4 a.m. Friday, city officials said.

No estimates are available for how many millions of gallons have been pumped by pipe into the bay's waters about one-quarter of a mile east of the Albert Whitted sewer plant--shuttered since 2015 and now used for emergency sewer storage.

This week, the Tampa Bay Times hired a helicopter to photograph the massive brown plume off the city's waterfront. That plume has likely only grown in recent days.

For context, when Tropical Storm Colin overwhelmed the city's sewer system in June, the city pumped sewage into the bay for about two days. The result? Nearly 10 million gallons was dumped.

On Monday, St. Pete officials told the state Department of Environmental Protection that they estimated at least 20 million gallons of partially-treated wastewater had been pumped into the bay.

The city will provide a new update to the state, but Kirby said he didn't know when that would happen.

Water Resources Director Steve Leavitt told the City Council Thursday that city workers have been testing the water in Tampa and Boca Ciega bays since the discharges started. After several days of non-response to public record requests for those test results from the Tampa Bay Times, the city released some results at this morning showing elevated levels of bacteria at several locations.

Residents will never know the true extent of the dump. Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley told council members that a flow meter monitoring the discharge got stuck. So far, the city hasn't responded to questions about when the meter became inoperational. Tankersley texted a Times reporter Thursday to say that St. Petersburg's mechanical failures resembled those of Clearwater, which also had a spill at its Marshall Street Plant.

Clearwater officials have said they will offer more details today about their spill, which was not a controlled discharge like St. Petersburg. .