City hopes South Tampa sewer scrub will help flooding

- Contractors for the city of Tampa are for the first time in decades cleaning out key drainage pipes in hopes of helping the city prevent flooding.

"It's barnacles, it's debris, we found hub cabs, we found toys, you name it," said Jean Duncan, the head of the city's stormwater treatment division.

The 2015 stormwater fee increase called for outfall pipes on Davis Islands, Bayshore and Westshore to finally, after at least 20 years, be cleaned out.

"They are more than 50 percent blocked," said Duncan.

South Tampa residents like Robert Franz have bad memories of what blocked pipes cause.

"We came down two years ago when there was flooding on Bayshore and it was shocking."

Flooding on some streets was several feet high.

Since then, the city council has agreed to spend $250 million over the next 30 years to unclog pipes, fix ditches, and put in new retention ponds.

So far, all the outfalls on Davis Islands have been cleared, along with half on Bayshore, with those on Westshore still waiting.

Two fees to pay for the clean-out have been placed onto Tampa homeowners' bills, which Franz supports.

"We are always worried about what is next," he said. "Are we going to be able to have a dry home?"

As the cleaning continues, the city says this week's steady rain has helped.

"Our area is like a dry sponge, and if it is allowed to get wet and absorb the moisture, which we are having right now, that is a better thing than water pouring on it very quickly and not having time to react," said Duncan.

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