Hermine's rains overload sewer systems

Evan Lambert reports

- Not only is all of this rain causing flooding, it's overloading sewer systems. Wastewater treatment workers are working overtime to handle the sewage that, in some areas, is actually overflowing in the streets.

"I've been with Largo eight years and this is the worst I've seen it, this treatment plant," said Largo Wastewater Manager Gary Glascock.

Parts of Largo got pounded with 11 inches of rain in 24 hours, pushing its sewer system over capacity and pushing what's already in there... elsewhere. We spotted a manhole cover on Donegan Road spewing sewage for more than a day.

"That is raw sewage; you don't want to go near it," Glascock said. "You don't want to have kids playing in it. Just stay away from that completely."

The water that does make it to the wastewater treatment plant is being pumped back out to Cross Bayou Canal as treated effluent.

"It's gone through the biological process, removed the nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous and we chlorinated it but we weren't able to de-chlorinate it," Glascock said.

The good news is, it's not the murky stuff. Glascock filled up a container to show us the effluent, which looked similar to a glass a water.

Largo isn't alone in the storm water struggle. St. Pete has begun a controlled wastewater discharge into Tampa Bay, of which they say, 90 percent is expected to be rainwater or storm water.

And, in Sarasota County, the wastewater systems are at full capacity.

"We have crews out operating, maintaining, repairing as needed 24 hours per day and we will continue to do that through the duration of the storm," said David Cash, division manager for Sarasota County Public Utilities.

As crews work around the clock to control the overload, they need your help. Officials are asking people to save water. Cut back on washing clothes or dishes, take shorter showers, and, if at all possible, limit the number of times you flush the toilet.

One final word of advice: floodwater is just another word for bacteria water. Don't swim or play in it.

"Even though it looks like fun, it's not a good idea," Glascock insisted. "We try to protect health, environment and peoples' lives. That's what we are trying to do is protect that."

Help is on the way for Largo. There are several major projects under construction which will alleviate these types of overflow problems, from lift station upgrades to a 5-million gallon equalization tank. All of those are expected to be done by next fall.

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