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Fleet of generators now in place to avoid wastewater overflows in Tampa

TAMPA – The city of Tampa says it learned some big lessons after Hurricane Irma in 2017. For many, it was an uncomfortable few days without power, but city officials say, behind the scenes, they narrowly avoided a wastewater catastrophe.

"When Irma hit, we were really worried about [wastewater] overflowing and affecting the environment," said Calvin George, an advanced wastewater treatment technician for the city of Tampa.

As a result, the city's wastewater department began building a fleet of 64 new generators to act as a backup power source for the system in case another big storm were to hit.

Though Tampa itself was spared from severe flooding and wind damage, Irma dropped enough rain on the city to send wastewater treatment facilities into overdrive.

"During a storm like a hurricane, there are cracks or defects in our pipes that lets groundwater into our system and fills up the wastewater system," explained Tampa Wastewater Department director Eric Weiss. "An average day is about 55 to 60 million gallons [of wastewater], but because of cracks in the pipes, it ballooned up to 180 million gallons."