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Swamped by rains, St. Pete dumps treated sewage into Tampa Bay

Nanette O'Hara, outreach coordinator for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, a watchdog group for the bay, said the city's action wasn't surprising considering the extraordinary amounts of rain.

"Most of our local governments are having wastewater issues right now," she said. "This is a lot of old infrastructure that can't handle the load."

By Charlie Frago

ST. PETERSBURG — Faced with a wastewater system overwhelmed by weeks of torrential rainfall, the city dumped about 5.5 million gallons of treated sewage into Tampa Bay for eight hours beginning Sunday evening.

The wastewater — everything from toilet sewage, sink drainage and rainwater — was treated at the Albert Whitted plant before being pumped about 1,000 feet into Tampa Bay, said Mayor Rick Kriseman's spokesman Ben Kirby on Monday.

Pumping began about 8 p.m. Sunday and stopped at 4 a.m. Monday, he told the Tampa Bay Times.

Shuttered in April, the Whitted plant was reopened Sunday to handle the overflow, Kirby said.

The sewage was aired out to kill bacteria, chlorinated and screened after being pumped from the city's Southwest Water Reclamation Facility near Eckerd College. That facility had been swamped by increased flow after three weeks of heavy rain, forcing the city to divert 15.4 million gallons of untreated sewage into Clam Bayou last week.

Extra rain this weekend forced Sunday's emergency measure, Kirby said.