Mayor Rick Kriseman on Tuesday assured St. Petersburg residents the city was prepared for the onslaught of rain expected from then-Tropical Depression 9.
The lines had been cleared and cleaned, Kriseman said. The capacity of the system had been increased by 3 million gallons with improvements to the Albert Whitted sewer plant.
But the massive rainfall from the storm proved too much for the city’s system. By Wednesday night, St. Petersburg was discharging wastewater into Tampa Bay. That’s likely to continue at least until Hermine moves farther away.
“Our team is working really, really hard to manage this,” Kriseman’s spokesman Ben Kirby said. “It’s an ongoing emergency.”
It’s unclear, Kirby said, how much wastewater is being dumped into the Bay. The totals won’t be available until the emergency is over.
This is the second time in recent months that St. Petersburg has had to pump wastewater into Tampa Bay. When Tropical Storm Colin hit in June, water made its way into leaky pipes and overloaded the system.
City officials said they had no choice then or now. If they didn’t discharge wastewater into the bay, the impact on residents would be much worse.
A statement from the city explained, “In order to prevent raw or diluted sewage from negatively impacting our residents and their homes, the city of St. Petersburg has initiated a controlled wastewater discharge into Tampa Bay.
“Based on prior samples during similar conditions, 90 percent of the discharge is expected to consist of rainwater/storm water.”
Kirby said officials are hoping residents will help the situation by conserving water — not washing clothes or doing other water-intense chores until a couple of days after the storm has passed.