8 cities dumped sewage into Tampa Bay after Colin

- In the aftermath of this month's Tropical Storm Colin, documents from the Department of Environmental Protection show that sewage from eight cities around Tampa Bay was flushed into streams, rivers and the Tampa Bay itself.

"The way we are set up today, we knew we were at high risk," said Irvin Kety, the City of Largo's director of environmental services.

Ordinarily, the plant's web of filters, pumps and pipes clean an average of 12 million gallons of sewage a day. Its capacity is 18 million, but on the day Colin struck, the plant processed nearly 30 million gallons.

"Without the construction going on that we had, we wouldn't have had an overflow," he said.

The construction is at the final stop in the cleaning process, so the smaller temporary tank couldn't get it all. In Largo, 4 million gallons rushed into Cross Bayou Canal without having the disinfectant chlorine added.

Dangerous bacteria - about 60 times the limit considered safe - made it into a stream that feeds Tampa Bay.
"We sampled every two days, upstream and downstream, and by the sixth day, we were down within water quality standards acceptable by the state," said Kety.

The DEP said eight cities and towns reported similar issues during Colin, including 60,000 gallons in Riverview, 285,000 in Pinellas Park, 350,000 in Tampa and well over 500,000 in St. Petersburg.

While some of those could face fines, the City of St. Pete now faces a state investigation, and has already promised to spend $100 million over the next 10 years to make fixes to its system.

The DEP said all municipalities will have to make fixes, because so many have old systems.

"In Tampa Bay there are a lot of older plants, and different utilities are upgrading those in different ways on difference schedules," said Kety.

For the most part, water quality was only bad for five or six days until it was back to normal.

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