Mayor Kriseman blames bad timing for 50,000 gallon 'mostly treated' wastewater spill

Posted at 10:09 AM, Jul 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-13 18:17:51-04

The City of St. Petersburg says approximately 50,000 gallons of "mostly treated" wastewater overflowed at the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility on 54th Avenue South on Wednesday night between 8:50 p.m. and 9:10 p.m.

Mayor Rick Kriseman blames bad timing. Construction crews just the day before had shut down half of a chlorine contact basin as they worked around the area. Wednesday night's heavy rains increased water into the facility and with only half the capacity, 50,000 gallons of "mostly treated" wastewater spilled onto the ground. 

The water was contained to the plant and did not flow into nearby Eckerd College or Maximo Moorings neighborhood. 

2 inches of rain fell in one hour and that was was enough to cause the chlorine basin to overflow.

People who live just across the street worry what would happen with a tropical storm or hurricane. 

Laura Lehmkuhl added, "It was a heavy downpour that flooded the street, but it was quick. What would happen if it rained like that for hours?"

The spill comes just two days after Mayor Rick Kriseman held a press conference to show off how well the multi-million dollar upgrades are working to prevent sewage spills.

“We are better prepared today than we expected to be,” he told a large crowd of reporters Tuesday.

When questioned Thursday, Mayor Kriseman blamed bad timing. “The timing just happened to be that this one piece was offline when this rain happened.”

Sean Mulligan, who lives in nearby Maximo Moorings, disagrees. “That’s a problem that shouldn’t be occurring. We are in Florida. It rains a lot and our sewer system should be prepared to handle the amount of rain we have every summer.”

As crews continue to work, they’ll have to shut down various parts of the plant during the peak of summer rainfall.  

The chlorine basin will remain halfway closed for 9 more days as crews work. Tom Begley and his neighbors hope there won't be any more bad storms. “It's really concerning and the bottom line is this is a result of years of neglect and poor planning,” Begley said.

St Pete leaders say they are closely working with the construction manager, Haskell, to evaluate what hapened and manage fast-moving, short-term rain flows while the plant is under construction. 

City leaders were expected to vote today on a new plan to increase your water bill between 10-20% to pay for $300 million in sewage fixes across town, but they pushed that decision off for another week.