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Hurricane Irma Causes Sewage Spills Around The State

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Julio Ochoa/Health News Florida
The Florida Channel
Sewage treatment at St. Petersburg's southwest wastewater pant.

Rain and power outages from Hurricane Irma led to sewage spills across Florida, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

St. Petersburg again reported spills but the wastewater plant that caused the city to release more than 100 million gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay last year didn’t have any problems.

The city spent millions creating more capacity at the southwest plant after last year's problems.

During Irma, St. Petersburg's northeast plant spilled more than 430,000 gallons of partially-treated wastewater. And this time, it wasn’t a capacity issue.

Claude Tankersly, the city’s public works director said a faulty sensor caused a holding tank to overflow.

“So the operators were being told by the sensor that we had plenty of room left in the tank when in actuality we had filled it,” Tankersly said.

The water that spilled was treated but did not contain the amount of chlorine required by the state for disinfection. The spill was contained to the plant’s property, Tankersly said.  

The city also had 19,000 gallons of sewage leak from manholes after power went out to lift stations around the city.

Similar spills due to lift station outages were reported throughout the Tampa Bay area and the state, according to the Department of Environmental Protection, which requires notifications of the spills.

In Clearwater 1.6 million gallons of partially-treated sewage spilled into Steverson Creek on Monday after a power outage caused a switch to fail. The creek was treated with lime, which also had to be cleaned.