ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Construction crews in St. Petersburg are ready to break ground on the city’s latest improvement to its sewer system.
Tuesday, crews will begin installing a 16-inch wastewater pipeline in the southwest portion of the city that could prevent future sewage overflows in the area during periods of heavy rain.
The improvement is required under an agreement the city reached with the Florida Department of Environment Protection (FDEP) in 2017 after the city’s sewer system spilled almost 200 million gallons of wastewater into local waterways during 2015 and 2016.
During heavy periods of rain brought by storms like Hurricane Hermine, stormwater flowed into the city’s sewer system and, in turn, pushed wastewater out of it and into places like Clam Bayou in southwest St. Pete.
The new pipeline, once installed, will be able to divert sewage from tanks in the city’s southwest basin to the northwest basin during “peak wet weather events.”
“Rain does not fall equally across the city. You get areas where it will fall heavier and areas where it’s lighter,” explained Lisa Rhea, the city’s Senior Water Resources Manager. “We’re moving some of the water from this one into this one, and hopefully it allows us to manage it much more efficiently.”
The work will happen on Pasadena Avenue and Park Circle South, then continue along and under the Pinellas Trail to Pinellas Way South, and along Pinellas Way South toward 1st Avenue South from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The construction could cause temporary lane and sidewalk closures. It will take about six months to complete and happen simultaneously with the construction of a new lift station at 690 43rd Street South.
According to Rhea, some sewage spills have happened in recent years because of problems like blockages, which are sometimes caused when grease is disposed of improperly and “flushable” wipes are flushed down toilets.
However, Rhea said recent improvements — in addition to the pipeline project that begins Tuesday — have drastically reduced the instances in which sewage is spilled because of the flow of stormwater during wet weather events.
In recent years, she said the city spent hundreds of millions of dollars inspecting and improving its sewer system and addressing rainwater infiltration. Some aging pipes have been replaced or patched with protective liners.
Additionally, the city will soon install new headworks and reject tanks at its northwest facility, and improve the electrical system at its northeast facility.
“We are doing the best we can for the future of the city,” she said.
She believes it's vital future city leaders continue making similar investments toward improving the system.
“It’s just like your house. You might replace the roof this year, but you’re going to replace it again in 15-20 years. Or, you might update your bathroom, but you’re going to be updating it again. It’s an ongoing process,” she said. “We’re constantly having to invest in the system, upgrade the system.”
Read more about the work in southwest St. Pete here.