ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Big changes will soon be coming to the Northeast Water Reclamation Facility in St. Petersburg.
The upgrades should protect the equipment during the next big storm, make the system more reliable and prevent future sewage spills.
You may not think about what happens after you flush the toilet, but the wastewater undergoes a long process once it makes its way to our local reclamation facilities.
“Behind the scenes, every time you flush day or night rain or shine this plant has to run,” explained John Palenchar while showing ABC Action News around the reclamation facility.
Every day, up to 16 million gallons of wastewater go to the Northeast Water Reclamation Facility on 62nd Avenue NE in Shore Acres.
Yet, city leaders said the equipment is aging and in need of major upgrades.
“You have a lot of old equipment that’s very dangerous to work on. It’s old equipment and some of it we don’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole. Literally, we have a wooden pole we use to engage with some of the equipment in order to ensure our staff is safe,” Palenchar added.
Starting in the Spring of 2023, they’ll upgrade the electrical system, renovate the distribution pumps, and put some of the equipment 9 feet above ground in case of heavy floods.
Because of the electrical system’s age, deteriorated condition and diminishing availability of replacement parts, Palenchar said fixing the system has proved to be challenging.
The project will also include widening the sidewalk along 62nd Ave. for safer and easier pedestrian/cyclist usage.
Back in 2017, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection required St. Pete to make upgrades to its wastewater system after the DEP said the city dumped 200 million gallons of wastewater into local waterways. This is one of many projects the city has tackled since to improve reliability.
“It's fantastic to know that is happening because as a new resident coming from an area where environmental protection in the northwest is huge,” said Andrea Hatton who just moved into the Shore Acres Neighborhood in St. Pete.
One part of the project involves injecting the water at the final stage of treatment underground during major storms into an injection well. Palenchar said it goes to an area of the aquifer that’s a saltwater zone.
“It is so far removed from any connectivity to any drinking water source that it is safe to inject that water into there,” he explained.
Hatton said she supports any project that keeps our bay healthy, which is one of the reasons why she moved to Florida.
“We have to protect it. This is what we have. We’ve been given this one gift and we have to protect it absolutely,” she added.
If you’d like to learn more about the project, St. Pete leaders are hosting a public meeting on Tuesday, September 27 at 6 p.m. at the Shore Acres Rec Center.
Construction will begin in the Spring and take about three years to complete.