Tampa's largest pumping station is up and running after upgrades to battle record rains

Posted at 5:27 PM, Aug 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-08 18:47:35-04

Neighbors in this Riverside Heights community dread rain. Darcy Paulsen struggles to leave his driveway.

"It is a disaster for a number of reasons," said Paulsen.

For Marc McGinnis, a father of two active boys, it's not just the flooding, it's the standing water for days after.

"They see a puddle of water and they want to go splash around in it," said McGinnis. "I mean, how clean is this water? Is there parasites? Is there sewage?"

Now, both men can rest a little easier.

Tampa crews just completed a $7 million upgrade to the city's largest and oldest pumping station. Up until last Tuesday, they were using bypass pumps to handle sewage.

"It's huge. It's huge having this pumping station online," said Brad Baird with the City of Tampa. Baird looks over this whole department.

Currently, the city has 230 stations. It has taken a year to get this current one up and running. Work started last August after record rainfalls.

Then, this station couldn't keep up. Sewage started bubbling out of manhole covers, and overflow from waterways spilled onto the streets. That stops now, says Baird.

"If we had the same rain event, I am confident this pumping station will be able to handle one-third of the city without a problem," said Baird.

City officials said the money came without consumers seeing a hike in their wastewater bill. The last time there was an increase was in 2012.

"We are investing in our wastewater infrastructure, as we should, because it causes health and safety concerns if you have overflows," said Baird.

McGinnis realizes it's still not wise to let his boys go wading in the water, but he feels a bit better about them being outside.

"I think it is great that the pumping station has got some improvements and they can get some of the storm water out and not see sewage back up and things," said McGinnis.

City officials said there is a meeting on improving storm water and flooding planned for September 1.