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Heavy Rains Cause Sewage Problems Again In St. Petersburg

The Southwest Water Reclamation facility in st. petersburg
Julio Ochoa/WUSF
St. Petersburg violated its permit to pump treated watewater into injection wells on Saturday.

St. Petersburg again is facing problems over its ability to treat sewage during big storms.

The city violated its permit to pump treated wastewater into injection wells on Saturday. In a notification to the state, St. Petersburg officials reported pumping 6.6 million gallons of wastewater into the acquirer through injection wells.

The wastewater did not meet the state’s pollution standards because it contained too many suspended solids. The state standard is less than 5 milligrams per liter and St. Petersburg released water containing up to 50 milligrams per liter, according to the volition notice.

The problems happened at the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility near Eckerd College.

Heavy rainfall overwhelmed the city’s sewage system and it began diverting water to holding tanks. But construction at the plant has impacted the city’s ability to divert and hold water and at 5:50 p.m. the flow exceeded capacity.

The partially treated wastewater was pumped into the injection wells for about 4 ½ hours before it was brought into compliance.

The state did not pursue enforcement against the city because the incident was not found to be a chronic problem, a spokeswoman for DEP said in an email to WUSF. 

The water was pumped deep into the Florida Aquifer where it is not a danger to drinking water, according to a release from the city.

However, the Department of Environmental Protection requires the city to meet the requirement for fewer suspended solids because the water St. Petersburg injects into its wells has been found to migrate up into other layers of the acquifer, a spokeswoman for DEP said. 

The city’s Southwest Water Reclamation Facility is the same facility that had issues in 2015 and 2016 when hundreds of millions of gallons were released into Tampa Bay.

After those violations, the city signed a consent order with the state and agreed to spend $326 million on improvements to its wastewater treatment facilities.

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